Despite the ailing economy, state lawmakers are set to get a 5.3% pay increase.
With the state facing economic difficulty, a budget deficit, and thousands of people losing their jobs and homes, a government watchdog says it's reasonable to expect that the state legislature should lead by example.
"Certainly one way to lead is not to accept a 5% pay raise at a time when everybody else is either staying where they are or losing their jobs or being cut back."
Jay Heck of Wisconsin Common Cause says the automatic pay hike for lawmakers simply makes the rest of us even more cynical about state government. The 5.3% raise equals about $2,500 per lawmaker, times 132 lawmakers, that amounts to almost $332,000 taxpayer dollars.
Heck says that's not a lot of money in the general scheme of things, but in this economy, it's just hard to justify when the rest of us are taking cuts or losing our jobs. He says it's symbolic.
"Given the fact that the legislature is going to have to make massive cuts in areas … some cases of vital service areas – human services – for people who can't afford to be cut, I just don't see how they could, in all good conscience, accept a pay raise."
Salaries for lawmakers will increase from about $47,400 to almost $50,000. In addition, lawmakers outside of Dane County can claim $88 per day for food and lodging (per diem) every time they show up to the Capitol.
Heck says the automatic pay raise undermines lawmakers' credibility and their ability to have the confidence of their constituents as they face challenges in the upcoming legislative session