Nebraska Senator Says Lawmaker Raises are Long Overdue

Nebraska Senator Says Lawmaker Raises are Long Overdue

By Michael Avok, Associated Press. CREATED Feb 7, 2012

Lincoln, NE (AP) - The Nebraska Legislature has become a collection of retirees, the wealthy and those who own their own businesses because everyday people can't afford to serve, an Omaha senator said Tuesday, arguing for a $20,000 a year raise.

Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh told the Executive Board Committee that many young, competent people who could run for office aren't because it's difficult to serve the public and hold a full-time job.

"Our pay is too low. I don't know how I can say that more clearly," Lautenbaugh said. "There's never a good time to ask for an increase, but this is long overdue."

Lautenbaugh is supporting a constitutional amendment to raise lawmaker salaries from $12,000 to $32,000 a year. He said Nebraska's legislative compensation has not been adjusted for 24 years.

"Let's give a nod to reality here," Lautenbaugh said. "Even at the pace of inflation, we are still behind."

Any salary change would have to be approved by voters in the November election.

No one spoke in opposition to Lautenbaugh's plan, but the committee also took testimony on an alternative put forth by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln.

Avery wants to create a compensation commission to review and recommend salary, along with actual travel and per diem expenditures, for Constitutional officers and members of the Legislature.

The panel would have six members and would be in charge of investigating whether Nebraska officials and elected leaders are compensated fairly.

It would study the cost of living and the benefits and salaries paid in other states to help decide on an appropriate salary package for Nebraska leaders.

Adam Morfeld, executive director of the group Nebraskans for Civic Reform, testified in favor of the Avery plan.

"Our primary concern is that the lack of compensation narrows the choices for voters," Morfeld said.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)