Voters overwhelmingly shoot down proposed raise for state lawmakers
Arizona voters on Tuesday soundly rejected Proposition 304, which would have given Arizona lawmakers their first pay raise in 16 years.
The Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers proposed raising lawmakers’ salaries by 46 percent from $24,000 per year to $35,000. It based that amount on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index showing that $24,000 in 1998 is equal to $35,021.15 today.
Per diem allowances would not have changed under Proposition 304. Lawmakers currently receive a daily per-diem to cover travel and living expenses. Maricopa County residents receive $35, and $60 goes to those who travel from elsewhere.
Voters have consistently rejected proposed raises for lawmakers since 1998. The last defeat was in 2008. There were no proposals in 2010 or 2012 because of the recession.
Supporters of the $11,000 raise said that well-paid lawmakers produce quality work. They said an increase would also fairly compensate lawmakers for the amount of work they put into what is supposed to be a part-time job, which they say extends beyond the 100 days normally allotted to the legislative session.
Opponents said that because lawmakers are part-time employees they should be paid as such. They also say that higher pay money doesn’t necessarily mean better government.
“People in general whether it’s merited or not are dissatisfied with not only state legislatures but on the national level,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who opposed the measure. “And so it’s not surprising to me that they rejected it.
Joe Kanefield, a member of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers and supporter of the proposition, said he also wasn’t surprised by the results given what was on the ballot this year.
“I’m disappointed obviously, but it’s understandable that the voters would turn the recommendation down at this time,” he said. “There’s a lot of different issues that came up during the course of the campaign about the economy, which seems to be the primary focus while Arizonans are still struggling.”