So, the Washington State Legislature has been called in for their 'Special Session' for over 3 weeks now. Unable to figure out how to cut FIVE BILLION Dollars from the bi-annual budget in their scheduled 105 day session, the Legislature was called back by Governor Gregoire to finish their job.
Progress made so far includes passing a parks bill which will require park users to pay $5 a visit, or $30 a year to use the parks, and another bill which would allow cigar lounges and tobacco stores to buy 'exemption passes' to the state indoor smoking ban. The best case estimate is that these two measures will raise about $120 Million in the next two years...so, they have solved about 2.5% of the problem in 3 weeks. Other than that, they have all agreed that SOMETHING needs to be done to pay for the roads. At this rate they should have the budget problem in Washington State solved...let's see, carry the one, subtract the interest...and the answer is NEVER!!!!!!!
Another thing that they have agreed upon is a 3% percent pay cut for all Washington State Employees. Well...not ALL State Employees...elected officials wouldn't be effected by this pay cut.
Joe Zarelli who at least made the attempt to introduce a constitutional amendment that would have allowed a change to elected official pay, doesn't exactly seem crest-fallen that his motion isn't going anywhere.
"Symbolically, it's important. But it amounts to very few dollars," Zarelli said. "You can only fight for so many things."
And in my opinion, the symbolic things are the things you need to fight for the hardest. The whole reason you guys are still in session(making more money than is budgeted for!) is because you were not able to get your job done in the properly scheduled time, in the first place! Not only are the not giving money back, but they are like some hourly employees that I might know, where you find enough problems with the job to push from day shift, to O.T. at night.
The Washington State Legislature is supposed to be a citizen legislature. It meets for 60 days in even years, 105 days in odd years, the extra time being devoted to budget work. The rest of the time, you are supposed to live your life, and work at your real job. As such, being a member of the state house pays $42,000 a year...not bad for 3 months work, but, not enough to live on comfortably if it is your only source of income.
I am not sure if being a member of the Legislature gives you any job protection. In other words, I can't find anything in writing saying that if Jessie the Nurse somehow got elected to the State House, her doctors office would have to let her go serve her term AND ensure she had a job to go back to. One would think that the advantages of having a State Representative working for your company would the inconvenience worthwhile.
Senator Ed Murray says that this makes it difficult for many people to serve in the legislature AND hold a job, so I am not sure there is any job protection. As a result of this difficulty, he points out that many of the state lawmakers are wealthy and or retired.
He uses this to point out why cutting salary's would be BAD, making it even tougher to have a Citizen Legislature.
His is the cup half-full approach. I'm a half-empty guy, and I would ask if they are all already so wealthy, why are we paying them at all?