Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Should state Legislature get part-time pay?

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Greg Peck
January 23, 2013

I’ve written about it before, and now a Wisconsin Democrat is suggesting it again. Rep. Leon Young of Milwaukee says he will propose a 90-day legislative session and annual pay cuts of $12,000. Now, lawmakers earn salaries of almost $50,000 per year.

In a story by the Pew Center on the States, Young said lawmakers function as a “de facto” part-time Legislature now. Out of a possible 122 session days last year, the Legislature only met 34 days, he pointed out.

The change to a part-time Legislature would require an amendment of the state constitution.

A similar proposal is emerging in Michigan. Wisconsin and its neighbor are among just 10 states that have full-time legislatures. Most have large populations.

I wrote about this topic two years ago. That’s after the Sheboygan Press calculated that the Assembly met just 23 days in 2009 and a paltry 13 in 2010. The Senate met 17 days in 2009 and just 14 in 2010.

Sure, lawmakers spend many more days in committee meetings and public hearings, helping constituents, speaking before service clubs and attending ground-breaking ceremonies.

Don’t you agree, however, that we’re paying them full time for what clearly is part-time work?

Perhaps you think that’s OK. The fewer days they’re in session, you might reason, the less risk of them passing inane and detrimental legislation.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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