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10 House members now agree to cut their pay

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Aug. 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm | 9 Comments »
August 5, 2011 11:03 am

The number of state House members asking to cut their pay keeps climbing after my report that few were doing so.

Many tell me they were unaware of the option, despite having voted here and here for legislation cutting most state workers’ pay by 3 percent and encouraging themselves to take voluntary cuts.

The House Chief Clerk’s Office said today that 10 members have put in signed requests to the House accounting office, and at least two more are in the works. So far, no senators appear to be joining suit, but four statewide elected officials have cut their pay by at least 3 percent, and five others assert they are donating pay or intend to.

The 10 House members include Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle; Republican Reps. Ann Rivers of LaCenter and Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup; and Democratic Reps. Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor, Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw, Michael Sells of Everett, Tina Orwall of Normandy Park, Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim and Reuven Carlyle have asked for reductions.

Latecomers since the Sunday news story were from Dammeier, Hurst, Sells, Orwall, Van De Wege, and Carlyle. The House accounting department is waiting for signed authorizations from two more – Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, according to Bernard Dean, deputy chief clerk of the House.

The House accounting office prepared a chart showing amounts of pay cuts requested (note: I added a few names and amounts to the accountants’ draft):

RepresentativeCutMonthly Cut
Frank Chopp5%208.78
Troy Kelley5%175.84
Larry Seaquist5%175.44
Ann Rivers3%105.26
Bruce Dammeier3%105.26
Chris Hurst3%105.26
Michael Sells3%105.26
Tina Orwall3%105.26
K. Van De Wege5%175.44
Reuven Carlyle3%105.26

Rank and file members earn $42,106 in base pay, while Speaker Chopp earns more than $50,106.

Chopp had waived some of his pay even before legislators passed Senate Bill 5860, which enacted 3 percent pay cuts for most state employees, created the voluntary pay waiver form, and encouraged elected officials including legislators to voluntarily cut their pay.

Lawmakers did not lower their own pay across the board, because the state Constitution gives power to set pay to the state Citizens Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

Proposals to let the commission lower pay, as well as to raise it, failed to pass this year.

Frockt wrote me earlier in the week to say he’d not been aware of the handy pay-cut form now available at the web site of the state Citizens Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, which has the power to raise lawmaker pay but not to lower it. But tucked into language of Senate Bill 5860, which cut pay for workers, was language also setting up a waiver option for elected officials.

Frockt wrote that he “did not take per diem during the special session and took it on a reduced basis during the regular session.” And because he filed his pay cut too late for the July pay periods, “my 3% reduction will start on the August 10 pay date and run through June 29, 2013. For the July period, I intend to provide a donation of at least that amount to the North Seattle Helpline, a food bank and social service agency in my district.”

Hurst also sent me an email explaining he had just returned to town and “had not been aware that there was a process for doing this outside of the Salary Commission.” He said the 3 percent cut “seems fair considering the circumstances everyone finds themselves in. “

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, told me this week she is not cutting her pay because she believes she is only partly compensated for the time and costs she incurs for the job. Fraser also waives the $90 per day expense allowance lawmakers can claim while working in Olympia.

And Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, said his is a one-income family and that in the last year changes in expense rules at the Senate meant he could not automatically receive additional expense money for office expenses. “It amounted to almost $8,000 a year. That took a huge bite out of my income,” Swecker said.

Not only that, Swecker said, lawmakers voted to do away with cost of living increases in the PERS 1 retirement plan he expects to draw a pension from eventually, which means his future income will be lower, too.

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