Initiative wants no overtime pay for lawmakers
Here's a question: Should you get paid if you don't complete your job? That's the sentiment behind a new ballot initiative aimed at state lawmakers. It would keep lawmakers from being paid overtime if they don't pass a budget on time.
The group behind the initiative is mostly made up of sitting legislators.
Alaskans for Integrity has three co-sponsors from across the political spectrum. Republican Bonnie Jack, Democratic Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, and Independent Representative Jason Grenn teamed up on a solution to what they call a non-partisan problem.
When lawmakers go into overtime in Juneau, it's expensive. A lot of the cost comes from their per diem payments. Once session ends in April, the allowance jumps $20 a day-- from $275 to $295.
It's money Representative Jason Grenn says he and his colleagues don't deserve if they didn't get their job done.
"To pass a budget-- that's our one job," Grenn says.
Grenn is co-sponsoring a new ballot initiative that says if lawmakers don't pass a budget on time, they don't get per diem.
"When I went door to door last year, I heard that from a lot of people-- they felt that the extra sessions, that legislators were just wasting time in order to collect per diem," he says.
It isn't just the people in Grenn's district who think that.
"We should charge them if they have to go into overtime," says Alaska resident Tim Fisher.
Crystal Hermosura says, "Definitely, get your work done so you can get paid just like we have to work to get paid ourselves."
For his part, Grenn's already put his own money where his mouth is.
"It's noodles, peanut butter, crackers."
After lawmakers failed to pass a budget this summer, he didn't take any of the extra income.
"It's not that glorious, I'll say that," Grenn said. "And, it's a little humbling. You know, there was other legislators who I think earned somewhere between $15 and 20,000 more in per diem than I did."
Grenn says it was the right thing to do. Now, it'll be up to Alaskans to decide whether it's what all lawmakers should do.
The initiative also puts stricter limits on the gifts lawmakers can receive from lobbyists and international travel.
The initiative needs 30,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but they can't start collecting them just yet. The language of the initiative must be cleared by the Department of Law first. And if it does pass, it will be on next year's ballot.
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