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Give lawmakers a pay raise

Local editorial

They're hardly getting rich, and they deserve fair compensation

Are Oregon state legislators worth more than &

36;32,000 a year?

We'd say they are, and their pay ought to be raised at least to the average of comparable states, a little over &

36;35,000 a year when per-diem payments during legislative sessions are factored in.

We can hear the screaming now: There they go again, feeding at the government trough while ordinary citizens scrape to pay huge tax bills.

Nonsense.

Oregon's tax burden actually ranks quite low compared with that of other states. And legislators deserve to be fairly compensated for the work they do, just like anyone else.

Or this one: Wow. &

36;35,000 is a lot of money.

— No, it's not.

Without the &

36;91-a-day payments they receive when the Legislature is in session, lawmakers earn the same as a person working 40 hours a week at minimum wage.

During sessions, they regularly put in far more than 40 hours a week. Out of session, there are committee meetings to attend ' in Salem ' requests from constituents and other duties.

And let's not forget, they're supposed to be citizen legislators ' that means holding down a regular job, maintaining a permanent residence in their district, being a part of their home community. Is it any wonder that the average age of Oregon legislators is over 50, and many are retired?

But wait, you say, the state is still in a budget crunch. How can we justify raising lawmakers' pay?

The Senate has 30 members, the House 60. Raising the pay of 90 people by about &

36;3,000 a year comes to less than &

36;300,000. It should be easy enough to find that much in an &

36;11 billion budget.

Despite the stereotype of the fat-cat politician, public officeholders in Oregon are not getting rich at taxpayer expense. They're not in it for the money.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, will form a public commission this month to look at changes to the Legislature. Paying a reasonable salary to those who do the public's business strikes us as a good place to start.