We stated earlier that we opposed the method, but understood and agreed with the motivation when it came to the Legislature’s decision to triple the per diem for rural lawmakers.
Nonetheless, we were pleased when Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1558, which would have boosted the daily rate from $60 to $185 for legislators living outside Maricopa County. Those within the county would have received a new per diem of $90 a day, compared to the current rate of $35.
Voters in Legislative District 14 should know that state Reps. Gail Griffin and Becky Nutt were among the 23 lawmakers in the House who cast ballots opposing the increase. In the Senate, LD14 Sen. David Gowan was a co-sponsor of SB 1558 and voted in favor of the bill.
Gov. Ducey made the right call in killing the legislation, citing the fact that lawmakers should never vote themselves a pay raise while they are holding office. He also recognized the need for legislators to receive more money but argued that boosting the per diem should have been reserved for the next biennial session, which starts in January 2021.
State lawmakers are paid $24,000 a year and a per diem for the first 120 days they are in session. After 120 days, their per diem is cut to $20 for rural legislators, and $10 for those who live within Maricopa County.
The last pay raise approved by Arizona voters for our elected state legislators happened in 1971. Today, the state’s compensation rate is among the lowest in the nation for those who serve in the state House and Senate.
We agree with the governor’s point that lawmakers should never vote themselves a pay raise. Based on the action taken by the Legislature last month, we would support an initiative that prevents anything similar to the action that put the higher per diem on the governor’s desk. Ideally, Arizona voters should authorize higher pay for our lawmakers, but if that’s not going to happen, then Ducey is right to make sure the increase happens for the next session, not the current session.
Still, serving in the Legislature shouldn’t cost our elected representatives money from their own pocket. That’s currently the case, especially for rural lawmakers.
Reprinted from Sierra Vista Herald/Review