Lawmakers should take same pay cut as most state employees

Yet, few -- despite the option to do so -- are taking a 3 percent or more cut.

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Most folks working for the state of Washington will see their pay decrease about 3 percent this year as the Legislature slashed wages to make about $5 billion in cuts when anticipated tax revenue failed to meet spending projections.

Ironically -- and sadly -- very few state lawmakers will see their paychecks decrease despite legal language they crafted to encourage themselves and statewide elected officials to take a voluntary cut in pay.

Just four state lawmakers of the 147 senators and representatives have opted to take the same pay cut as state employees, reported Brad Shannon, political editor of The Olympian newspaper.

"You know, not everyone can afford to take a pay cut. I'm just really glad that I can," said Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, who works as a public-affairs consultant. She took the step to cut her state salary of $42,106 by 3 percent.

She said that after voting to cut public employees' pay, she felt it was wrong not to reduce hers.

Rivers as well as House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, all did the right thing and they should be praised for it. Chopp, Seaquist and Kelley each took a pay cut of 5 percent or more. Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, donates about 3 percent of his legislative pay for college scholarships to high school graduates in his district, Shannon reported.

Praise should also go out to state officials who waived pay or donated salary to charity. Lawmakers can't simply vote a pay decrease for all elected officials because voters gave that power to a citizens' commission in 1986.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Treasurer Jim McIntire, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn all signed up to waive the pay increases granted them by the salary commission.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed filed paperwork to authorize the donation of 3 percent of his pay to charity. In addition, Gregoire is donating the raises she has received since 2008 to charity -- more than $5,000 a year.

"It's important for state employees and morale right now to know we are all in this together," said Cory Curtis, spokesman for the governor's office.

To this point, state employees are pretty much going it alone.

In the wake of Shannon's reporting on the low number of lawmakers taking pay cuts, expect a large number to sign up for the pay reduction -- and many will likely claim they were unaware the option was available.

And it might be true they were unaware. Getting the state budget wrapped up was hectic.

Still, shame can be a great motivator -- particularly for politicians.

Legislators, regardless of their personal financial situation, should all be taking the same pay cut they are requiring state employees take.

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