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All Things Michigan

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Why is Our State Legislature so Expensive?

Andrew Norton

I read this article over the weekend in the Detroit News and I specifically declined to comment on it. I just did not want to get everyone upset on a Monday morning. The problem, is that since I first read the article it has blitzed across the AP Wire and keeps popping up in every paper or website I visit. The main point of the article is that our state legislature is extremely expensive when you look at the number of members versus the annual cost of $100.4 million. 21 states have a larger legislative body than Michigan yet we are No. 6 in the nation as far as cost. Legislators have not increased their pay since 2001-2002 (how kind of them) and their salaries are currently $79,650. In addition to that base pay they also receive $12,000 for meals, lodging, and other expenses because, hey, you can't afford to pay for stuff like that when you only make $79,650 a year.

Our state lawmakers are regarded as a full-time legislature, but the House only met 110 times last year and the Senate met 113. A quick calculation of an average work year for an employee came up with 250 working days in a year. That is 50 weeks (figuring two weeks vacation) times 5 days per week (a lot of folks work more than just 5 days a week) to come up with a ballpark figure of 250 working days per year. Our state legislature works less than half of that and makes full-time money.

Anyone getting angry yet? Just like any good infomercial - wait there's more! Lawmakers say that a lot of work gets done outside of the actual legislative sessions. Well, a lot of time is spent on raising campaign funds anyway. The House and Senate members raised about $5.3 million last year.

So, while the state's economy bumbles along and companies (that want to stay in business) cut costs and employees, our state legislature works part-time at passing legislation for much more than they should be paid. Thank goodness that any future pay raises must be put before the residents of Michigan in a general election. If the legislature is ever stupid enough to put that on the ballot they ought to be ridden out of town on a rail.

Well, that is about all of the politics I can stand this morning. I just want to ask one more question. Does our state government exist to serve the people or do “we the people” serve the government?