Will legislators share in the pay sacrifices?

Most unionized state workers are looking at 5 percent pay cuts over the next two years, but it remains to be seen if their leaders in the Legislature will impose the same cuts on themselves.

After being widely criticized in 2009 for taking 36 percent raises for themselves while demanding sacrifices from everybody else in one of the worse years of the recession, lawmakers voted to take a 5 percent cut along with administrators and judges.

But that pay freeze expires June 30 unless legislators extend it before they adjourn May 5.

Measures to extend the legislative freeze until Dec. 1, 2013, have passed both the House and Senate, but language differences must be worked out in conference committee. The Senate has named conferees led by Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee, but the House has not named conferees and no meetings are set with time running out.

If the 2009 pay freeze expires, lawmakers will not only get back the 5 percent cut, but also two frozen 3.5 percent increases granted by the state salary commission that were scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 1, 2011. The salary commission schedule also calls for 3.5 percent raises in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Under the latest version of the extension bill, HB 575, all of the lost pay — a total of 22.5 percent — would be restored to legislators on Jan. 1, 2014, increasing their current pay of $46,272 to more than $56,600. The president of the Senate and speaker of the House receive an additional $7,500.

Update: The House appointed conferees Monday led by Reps. Karl Rhoads and Marcus Oshiro, but the bill was re-referred to both the Labor and Finance committees and no conference session was scheduled.

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16 Comments on “Will legislators share in the pay sacrifices?”

  1. Doug Says:

    As I read that SD2, legislative pay will go up in 2014 to whatever the salary commission set it to be on that date, but that last paragraph of yours where you refer to “lost pay” seems to imply that legislators would receive back pay to recoup losses during the period where they took 5% pay cuts. That implication is not true, according to (d):

    “This section shall not be construed to impart any right to additional compensation previously authorized through the adoption of the commission on salaries’ recommendations for the period from January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2013.”

  2. David Shapiro Says:

    Nope, didn’t mean to suggest back pay, just restoration of the 5 percent cut and raises they would have received during the freeze period.

  3. Teddy Freddy Says:

    Most people would say that no amount of money is enough to have to put up with what these guys have to. Everyone thinks they are low life crooks. Their lives are totally public and most think they should have backgrounds free of pimples, warts and any type of life experience that would lend itself to risk taking. In order to earn their $45,000 annual salary they must first prostitute themselves out so that they can raise the $100,000 or more it takes to run a proper campaign. Then they must stand on the side of the road holding meaningless signs while waving idotically to the faceless mass that drives by (or risk being labled at someone “too good to wave signs). Then, if elected they must give up a solid 6 months of their lives (November/December to prepare for session, Jan/Feb/March/April for the actual session, and much of May to wind down and catch up from the session. During the session most will work 10 to 12 hour days and listening and reading to countless people and email telling them what dirt bags they are for not supporting his or her pet issue and being accused of being stupid because they do not understand every aspect of every subject that comes before them. Then after session is over, these same lost souls will continue to go to community meetings and attend community events and god forbid someone takes them to lunch or dinner and spends more than $25 and the ethics police comes after them. All the while their lives are an open book and them and their families are always under scrutiny expected to somehow be better than mere humans but at the same time humble and appearing to be (at first glance anyway) just the same as everyone else, but not too much the same as to be boring or mediocre. No thanks. $45,000, $55,000 or even $65,000 is not enough for me or for most people to want to put our life through that, even if we want to “serve” and “do good” – the money is not enough and the life that comes with the job is too much.

  4. Rich Figel Says:

    Teddy is right. The best and brightest aren’t going to give up decent careers for part-time pay and full-time headaches. I know this will never happen, but I’ll say it again: we should have a unicameral legislature with full-time reps paid at least $75k a year to attract better candidates.

    Eliminate one house, and we’d save a bundle in legislator and staff salaries, while making races more competitive. Fewer seats, fewer political campaigns, higher voter interest.

    We get what we pay for: half-measures from part-time legislators who usually have to maintain another job or career to make ends meet… which also eliminates potential candidates who would have conflicts of interest if they are successful business people.

  5. Kolea Says:

    Well Said Ted.

  6. Michael Says:

    It will snow when Union Reps take a pay cut.

    I thought prostitution was illegal in Hawaii. Proves that those who run our legislature are unethical.

  7. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Teddy Freddy is right on – as a long-time lobbyist and non-profit public policy advocate, I can testify based upon my personal and professional experiences that there are may be as many as two legislators – out of 76 – who should be kicked out the door and down the road. One of them, I don’t even speak to nor do I communicate with in any way even when a really important bill comes before his committee. Usually, I work with someone else on the committee or another community group to raise the issues I consider important.

    Educating the public about the decision-makinag process is extremely important. Most folks do not understand that every Session, there are hundreds of Number One Causes brought to each legislator who oftentimes requires a quick briefing on the issue. To expect a legislator to understand the details of every single Number One Cause is simply not realistic.

  8. Michael Says:

    Most people would jump at a job that is Part-time that pays 45,000 dollars a year. With Health Insurance.

    I do not agree that one is paid more will do a better job. It is up to that individual to do a good job with pride. Not be a HECO worker but be a Japanese who works at the damaged Nuclear Plant at Fukushima. As a taxpayer or one that pays for customer service, prove to me that you deserve a raise. Not because you are in a union or because of inflation. You earn it, you get it. Only in America the slackers get a raise with those who work hard.

  9. Richard Gozinya Says:

    “Will legislators share in the pay sacrifices?”

    Bwahahahha…..you’re killin’ me Dave. Try the veal, tip the waiters.

  10. hipoli Says:

    You nailed it, Ted Fred.

  11. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    Teddy, I couldn’t have put it better myself. And believe me, I’ve tried.

    Dave, this pay raise thing is a dead horse. I can appreciate your point of view, but it’s time to quit beating it.

  12. David Shapiro Says:

    Earl, with all due respect, if the Legislature fails to pass this freeze extension — effectively giving themselves 12 percent raises on July 1 when HGEA workers and others start taking 5 percent cuts — it is new business, not a dead horse. The dead horse theory comes mostly from folks who hang out too much in the Capitol District and are tone deaf to how much this self-serving offends the general citizenry.

  13. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    Frankly, I think the Legislature will do the right thing (both morally and politically) and extend the freeze.

    However, my whole “dead horse” claim is based on the fact that the raise happened a while ago and was (in my opinion) justified given the many years during which the pay wasn’t adjusted. It’s a separate issue from anything they’re doing today.

    Dave, I agree with you that the freeze should stay in place. I just don’t think there’s anything to be gained, and a world of tea party and other mixed crazy, government-hater nonsense to be inflamed by constantly bringing up the original pay raise.

    And that’s all with due respect, of course. You and I see eye-to-eye on so many other things. This is one of those we’ve just got to agree to disagree, I guess.

  14. ppcc Says:

    Teddy Freddy:
    Prior to becoming a permanent State legislature, wasn’t Calvin Say a busboy and now makes pretty good money, including being paid as a board member for a company that he voted as a State legislature that had direct financial impact for that company?

    What about Nestor Garcia, who not too long ago was a local news reporter probably making only about $40-50K and now as a City councilman makes about total income of about $160,000+ per year? What about Todd Apo who received his law degree from UH and after becoming a councilman now makes big bucks selling Mickey Mouse. The list goes on. Please spare all of the “poor” Hawaii State legislatures who have to make “sacrifices”. Of course not all, however it is abundantly clear that many State and City elected officials got into politics, NOT to serve the public, rather to enrich their personal wealth. That is NOT an opinion, rather a fact that as the few examples I gave, can be clearly documented.

  15. David Shapiro Says:

    I hope Earl is right. The conference committee has scheduled a meeting for 2:15 p.m. Wednesday in Room 325.

  16. charles Says:

    David conveniently forgets everytime he mentions the raises that legislators went without any raises for 12 years; a period when I dare say everyone working in Hawaii (including David and me) got raises.

    Now if during that time, David wrote a column complimenting legislators for not having a raise when everyone else was, I missed it and maybe he can provide a link to it.

    For me, I don’t know what is “fair” in terms of compensation for legislators but I have two observations:

    1. Many claim it’s a cruise job getting paid almost five large ones for four months of work. Does anyone truly believe that all legislators simply close their doors at the end of session and then open back up the day session opens the following year?

    2. If it’s such a cruise job, it’s puzzling why there are so few takers.

    Again, it is true that the salary commission recommended a 36% pay raise for legislators (and it must be noted far bigger raises, dollarwise, for the executive branch and judges). And if David wants to continue to raise this fact ad nauseum, go for it. But to never mention that they went without raises for a long time to put it in context seems that David wants to make a point rather than be accurate.

    That said, it’s his blog and his right to be inaccurate by omission.


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