July 29, 2011

Bet you didn't know - bill allows legislators and statewide officials to cut their pay

The Legislature passed a bill (ESSB 5860) that included a section allowing legislators and statewide elected officials to voluntarily cut their pay by 3 percent – to equal the sacrifices being made by state employees. The governor signed the bill into law June 15. The law directed the Department of Personnel and Office of Financial Management to develop a form allowing elected officials to authorize a waiver of compensation. The resulting form, posted on the DOP website (http://www.dop.wa.gov/sitecollectiondocuments/forms and publications/dop forms/electedofficialsauthorizationtowaivecompensation.doc), allows elected officials to voluntarily cut their pay by either 3 percent a month or some other amount per month. They had the option of taking the pay cut for the same time period as most state employees, from July 1, 2011, through June 29, 2013, or for any other time period on or before June 29, 2013.

So if elected officials wanted to take on the same sacrifice as state employees, they would have signed up for a voluntary pay cut starting July 1 that would have first turned up in July 25 paychecks. According to press reports, only two elected officials – the governor and state treasurer – filled out that form and took a pay cut starting with their July 25 paycheck.

There’s no value judgment on this. After all, it is voluntary and there may not have been a lot of time to get the word out between the time the governor signed the law June 15 and July 1. So many may sign up once they’re made aware of it.

We hope that’s the case with those elected officials who intended all along to take the voluntary pay cut. After all, 36 state senators and 72 House members voted for it. And there was all that rhetoric about how you should pay more and more just to be a state employee.

So we’re just saying, you know, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

UPDATED 7/31/11:


Following up on our Friday Hotline that few elected officials had opted to take a voluntary 3 percent pay cut under a new law aimed at sharing the sacrifice with state employees, two newspapers this morning report that in fact a few elected officials have signed up for the pay cuts – or contributed an equal amount to charity.

We already reported on Friday that Gov. Chris Gregoire and state Treasurer Jim McIntire had signed up for the pay waivers, effective July 1.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review today reports that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn had also signed up for the voluntary 3 percent pay cut, but because of a processing glitch, he resubmitted the paperwork again Friday.

As far as other statewide elected officials, the Spokesman-Review reports that:
  • • Lt. Gov. Brad Owen filled out the form late and his voluntary pay cut will first show up in his Aug. 10 paycheck.
  • State Auditor Brian Sonntag, Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler have donated an equal amount to local charities and/or the state Combined Fund Drive, the Spokesman-Review reports. Kreidler’s office told the newspaper the commissioner opted for charitable donations because his salary is funded by assessments on insurance companies and does not come from the general fund. “By simply requesting a 3 percent reduction in salary, that money would be refunded to insurers, most of which are based out of state,” the newspaper said Kreider wrote to the state budget office.
The Olympian newspaper today reported that only four legislators – all from the House and none from the Senate – signed up for the voluntary 3 percent pay cut. According to the newspaper, those “Fantastic Four” House members who’ve signed up for the pay cut are:
  • Rep. Ann Rivers, R, 18th District
  • Rep. Frank Chopp, D, 43rd District
  • Rep. Larry Seaquist, D, 26th District
  • Rep. Troy Kelley, D, 28th District
Chopp, speaker of the state House, had already had his pay quietly cut way back in February, The Olympian reports.

Rivers, the assistant minority whip, told The Olympian “that after voting to cut public employees’ pay, she felt it was wrong not to reduce hers.”

To be fair, as we said Friday, many elected officials did not know the voluntary pay waiver form was available. Many said they would sign up now that they know about it. Others already are or will contribute to charity. And some, like Rep. Sam Hunt, D, 22nd District, forfeited most of their $90 daily expense money allowed legislators. Hunt did this even before the voluntary pay cut option was passed.
We know this is of keen interest to you. As more elected officials opt in to share the sacrifice with you, we will include kudos for them here.

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