Tag Archives: Scott Kawasaki

Pay raise flap continues

Democratic Reps. Les Gara from Anchorage, and Scott Kawasaki from Fairbanks, have gotten a lot of attention recently for opposing a proposed pay raise for Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, and the 14 commissioners in Parnell’s cabinet. The publicity has had an impact. On Saturday, Parnell announced that he would not accept the pay raise that would have jumped his salary from $145,000 to $154,644 by fiscal year 2015.

However, Parnell supports the other pay raises, which include bumping the lieutenant governor’s salary from $115,000 to $122,649 by 2015 and commissioners from $136,350 to $149,796.24 by 2015.

“The proposed increases are consistent with increases received by the majority of state employees,” the state commission that recommended the salaries wrote. Indeed, dozens of state works and at least 40, if not more, members of unions working for the Municipality of Anchorage make significantly more money than either the commissioners or the governor.

Parnell’s announcement hasn’t dampened Gara and Kawasaki’s enthusiasm to pass a bill next legislative session that would deny the others the raise. On Tuesday, Gara sent out an email to all 60 legislators, looking for additional sponsors.

Unless the legislature acts, raises will take place automatically, a procedure that Gara and Kawasaki both voted for in 2008, when they also voted to double legislative salaries from $24,012 a year to $50,400.

Since the legislative raise took place, legislators who live outside of Juneau get paid about $238 in per diem a day for the 90 day session, and for any days beyond the regular session. In 2012, the maximum per diem was $24,439.  This is on top of their salaries.

In addition to their salaries and per diems, each legislator gets money to travel for state business and House members get $16,000 a year and each senator $20,000. Ostensibly, this money was to be used for office expenses. However, until recently, legislators could pocket the money to use as income if they chose to do so. (It should be noted that in 2012, Gara only used $8,000 of his allotted funds.)

Neither commissioners nor the legislators have to pay any monthly premium for what’s considered today to be “Cadillac” insurance.

Most legislators do work between legislative sessions. Last session, however, Kawasaki didn’t want to work between sessions, nor do all of them want to stay when a special session is called. Last session, for instance, Kawasaki asked if he could be excused from the call of the House from the time the legislature was set to gavel out in mid-April until the time they are back in session next January. He was told by House leadership that he couldn’t.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

Clarification: Gara and Kawasaki voted against the final bill to establish a salary commission.


Kawasaki has tongues wagging

The past 72 hours has not been the best of times in Rep Scott Kawasaki’s (D-Fairbanks) political career. First, there was the Annual Legislative Skits on Sunday, where lawmakers were roasted by legislative staff. A skit that made fun of Kawasaki was one of the evening’s most embarrassing, one person who was there said, and involved hip grinding and allusions to an alleged incident last year where Kawasaki was said to have groped the girlfriend of a legislative staffer.

Then on Tuesday morning, Kawasaki asked if he could be excused from the call of the House from the time the legislature is set to gavel out in mid-April until the time they are back in session next January. Basically, he asked for 9 months off of work. He did so, he said much later but not at the time, to protest the possibility of a special session. However, he said that if there were one, he’d be here for it. And that he plans to work this summer.

That didn’t stop fellow Fairbanks House member Rep. Steve Thompson from calling it “appalling.”

It gets worse. Now there’s “tongue gate,” the biggest breach of decorum in the 100 years of Alaska legislative history, Rep. Craig Johnson said, with a straight face.

This incident began at about 11 p.m. on Monday, when House Speaker Mike Chenault was giving the last speech of the evening on the House floor before the passage of HB 4, a hugely significant bill that facilitates the building of an instate pipeline.

If you weren’t watching Gavel to Gavel closely, you, like me, might have missed it. Kawasaki first sticking out his tongue as Chenault talked, then puffing up his cheeks with air, like, well, children often do. (See animated giff here.)

All in all, the episode lasted only a few seconds. An eagle-eye out there however, caught it and told someone else who told someone else.

By Tuesday morning it was all over the building and a group of Republican Interior legislators called for a press conference in the speaker’s office, dubbed by those wittier than me, “tongue presser.”

The group wanted to distance themselves from his behavior and was worried that such inappropriate actions threatened bills that are important to Fairbanks, like natural gas trucking, they said. (This is something that’s roundly denied, even by the speaker, but didn’t stop the somber group from looking really somber).

What followed was a series of questions by Anchorage Daily News reporter Richard Mauer about whether or not Rep. Mike Hawker’s phrase on Monday night imploring members to ”pass” gas, which drew its share of giggles, was more inappropriate than a simple showing of the tongue.

Why wasn’t Hawker being called out for telling a “fart joke?” asked Mauer.

Things devolved from there.

Finally, a chastened and surprised looking Kawasaki arose to his defense and apologized for his actions.

Who was he sticking his tongue at?

“The camera,” he said.


“You’ve all have been there in the house floor late night, when folks are having a humorous time,” he said, speaking to reporters.

“I wish I hadn’t been caught,” Kawasaki said later in a phone interview.

Contact Amandamcoyne@yahoo.com