Monday, April 09, 2007
Ind. Gov't. - Still more on: Senate passes a non-transparent and convoluted pay raise bill
The ILB has posted several entries this year and the end of last year on SB 401, the legislative pay raise. The bill is on 2nd Reading today in the House. Several interesting 2nd reading amendments are pending. This one is from Rep. Fry, and deals with health care benefits of former members of the general assembly and their spouses. This one is from Rep. Thompson, and it would amend a provision I've never read before - IC 2-3-1-2, which currently states that, in rendering "legislative services," which are defined to include both work during the session and in the interim:
a member of the general assembly is normally required to work more than six hundred (600) hours per year.Thompson's amendment would change that to 1,200 hours per year.
This ILB entry from Nov. 26, 2006, titled "Could this be a coincidence?" began with "Could this be a coincidence? So far I've read three stories today, from different parts of the state, all making a point that Indiana legislators are poorly paid." Each cited salaries from other states' legislatures. The ILB asked:
What is missing here? The figures quoted above by the Times are from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). But what is missing is looking at the various states' legislative salaries within the content of "Full- and Part-Time Legislatures." The NCSL has a valuable page doing just that. It categorizes legislatures by the percentage of a full time job their work consumes.This ILB entry from Nov. 28, near the bottom, sets out a chart showing the "time on the job" in Indiana and some of our sister states, and then concludes:
For instance: "Red legislatures require the most time of legislators, usually 80 percent or more of a full-time job. They have large staffs. In most Red states, legislators are paid enough to make a living without requiring outside income." Michigan falls into this category: Illinois and Wisconsin fall into a subdivision labeled "red-lite."
Iowa falls into a category identified as: "Legislatures in these states typically say that they spend more than two-thirds of a full time job being legislators. Although their income from legislative work is greater than that in the Blue states, it's usually not enough to allow them to make a living without having other sources of income."
Where is Indiana? Farther down the scale, with the other "citizen legislatures." According to the NCSL: "In the Blue states, average lawmakers spends the equivalent of half of a full-time job doing legislative work. The compensation they receive for this work is quite low and requires them to have other sources of income in order to make a living. The blue states have relatively small staffs. They are often called traditional or citizen legislatures and they are most often found in the smallest population, more rural states."
A second table on the NCSL page compares average job time, compensation, and staff size by caegory of legislature.
So the two factors - "compensation" on the one hand, and the issue of "full-time vs. citizen legislature" on the other - would seem to be inextricably tied. Like the chicken and the egg, the question is: which comes first.
One might look at this table and conclude that, as part-time legislators, Indiana members at $45,000 a year including expenses, already are paid a good deal more than part-time legislators in other states (where the average, including expenses, is $15,984). So perhaps the question should be: Do we want to go to a professional legislature, one where members are paid perhaps $66,000 a year, as is our Secretary of State (who presumably, although I can't say for sure, receives the same health benefits and retirement as other state employees) - enough that their legislative service is not a second job? A related question - if we have a professional legislature, do we also want it to be a full-time legislature?BTW, the Indiana "time on the job" figure in the chart is 54%. Assuming a work year of 2,000 hours, that would come out to 1,080 hours. Yet "600 hours" is the current figure in the statute.
In this March 4, 2007 entry, titled "Senate passes a non-transparent and convoluted pay raise bill," the ILB went through SB 401 line by line, pointing out, for instance:
Q - Why not simply raise the salary from $11,600 to what works out to about $21,700 starting in 2009? A - The cynical answer is because that would be too transparent. The actual answer is that tieing it to the trial judges' salaries, which in themselves are now tied by a law passed in 2005 (IC 33-38-5-8.1) to state employees' salaries, means the General Assembly would never have to vote on its own pay raise again, and that in a few years it would take an accountant with knowledge of state government to read this section and calculate what the salaries of legislators were at that time. * * *In this entry from April 3, 2007 the ILB attempted to answer the question: "Where are these amounts set out in the law?" by going through the biennial budget bill and showing the line items for a daily per diem during the session, and another for during the interium, tied to "the maximum daily amount allowable to employees of the executive branch of the federal government for subsistence expenses while away from home in travel status in the Indianapolis area. The legislative business per diem changes each time there is a change in that maximum daily amount." The entry concluded:
There is more to write, but not right now, on, to quote the Star, "the daily stipends, committee bonuses and other ancillary pay, which boost the total earnings of a legislator to an average of more than $40,000 a year" currently. Where are these amounts set out in the law? How often, and how, are they increased?
Quick calculations show that 4 months of $137/day = $16,440, plus 8 months of $55/day = $13,200, totalling a minimum $29,640 "floor." Add to that funds for travel and the leadership allowances.The ILB received a note from a reader last week, after the posting on per diems, that read in part:
The point? None of the above is affected by the new legislative pay raise bill.
So what about the total pay package? At the new $$ will not be enough to encourage bright young lawyers from small towns or who do not have independent wealth, or jobs with Ivy Tech or big law firms to take on the challenge of legislative work. There is a lot of truth to the saying we get what we pay for, and with the legislature we get less than is currently needed for improving the state. My senior partner did it for years, and it was a huge sacrifice for himself and the firm.I replied:
Here is my thing. I've talked about it before, maybe it is time to do it again. I think the issue we should be talking about is -- whether we are going to continue with a part-time legislature, paid accordingly, or move to a full-time legislature -- rather than whether we should pay our current part-time legislators more and more.
There are a lot of cons for full-time legislators, including the cost of full-time staff, etc. (see also this column by Matt Tully of the Star). One enormous pro, however, is that you would no longer have the situation we have now, where it seems nearly every committee chair is representing his own real life interest, such as pig farmers chairing agriculture, Ivy tech administrators deciding higher education priorities, etc.
Instead, we are back-dooring it, proposing to pay the legislators twice as much for the same part-time service, and taking the compensation question and its implications, and the conficts-of-interest questions completely off the future table.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 9, 2007 05:05 PM
Posted to Indiana Government