Mar 26 2009
Legislative Pay Raise Law Deadline Nears
Thursday, 26 March 2009

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            The Alaska State Legislature has until Saturday to reject the pay raise an independent commission has recommended for them, or it will go into effect automatically on January 1st next year. 

            The five member Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission was created during last year's legislative session. It includes a couple former legislators. They were charged with reviewing the salaries and benefits for the legislature, the governor, lieutenant governor and department heads. The commission announced earlier this year that it felt raises were needed across the board, and that legislators should be paid a flat 50,400-dollars per year.

            Currently, legislators are given a fixed annual salary of just over 24-thousand dollars, and an additional 27-thousand for per diem during the legislative session. They are also allowed to collect per diem during the nine months the legislature is not in session, too. During the interim, a legislator can collect 150-dollars a day if he or she works at least four hours on constituent matters, or attends a meeting on legislative or public business. Travel time is included.


            On his blog, Kodiak Representative Alan Austerman said the most troublesome aspect of the current system of pay is that some claim far more per diem than others, creating an "aura" of impropriety when the public sees a large disparity between legislators.

            For example, according to state documents, former Kodiak Representative Gabrielle LeDoux received over 56-thousand dollars in 2008, with 48-hundred of that in interim per diem. Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens received over 62-thousand dollars, with 10,650-dollars being interim per diem. Former Bethel Representative Mary Nelson made nearly 78-thousand dollars last year. Her interim per diem was actually higher than her salary, at 26,250-dollars. John Cowdry, Jay Ramras and Gary Wilken all claimed no interim per diem.

            Austerman was unavailable to comment this (Thursday) afternoon because he was in the House Finance hearing on the Federal Stimulus Funds, but he wrote that he feels the flat rate of just over 50-thousand dollars would be a much more transparent system.

            Austerman said he has not received any reaction from his constituents in District 36 yet, but would like some soon. There is a resolution before the House that could be heard before Saturday's deadline.