Americans generally take a dim view of the pay and perks received by their elected officials, but those people should be compensated to the point that public service is not an excessive burden. There is much to be said for having regular folks, and not just the wealthy, in statehouses and Congress, and they deserve admiration.
An example of the public skepticism is the repeated rejection by Arizona voters of pay increases for legislators, and that is the only way their salary can ever be increased under the Arizona Constitution. The amount has been fixed at $24,000 since 1998.
Meanwhile, legislators get per diem pay to cover expenses. That amount also hasn’t changed for a long time. It’s been $60 a day for rural legislators and $35 for those from Maricopa County since 1984. The Legislature tried to raise it this spring, but Gov. Doug Ducey shocked them with a veto because of his objection to the amount for Maricopa County lawmakers, as he was unable to separate the parts of the bill.
Pinal County legislators have the option to commute, although that no doubt is challenging at times. Other legislators have no choice but to arrange housing in Phoenix during the session, which lasts several months, as well as for meetings and hearings other parts of the year.
The bill would have set the per diem rate to what the federal government allows for trips to Phoenix — $185 a day. Maricopa County legislators would have gotten half of that, seven days a week.
More than half of the legislators have Maricopa County addresses, meaning that an effort to pass something acceptable to the governor next year would need the support of some of them. They already live nearby, but the problem is that the effort involves, in part, trying to compensate for an overdue pay raise. A compromise involving the governor needs to be reached. Meanwhile, legislative salaries deserve consideration as well.