After shooting down five straight ballot propositions to give state lawmakers a raise, Arizona voters may get a chance to give them pay cut instead.
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Phoenix Democrat, has introduced a resolution that would reduce lawmakers’ pay in line with any pay cuts for other state employees. Senators and representatives now earn $24,000 for their part-time roles at the Capitol.
“I think we need to live as we legislate,” Cheuvront said. “It’s important that if we’re asking state employees to decrease their salaries that we should also be willing to decrease ours.”
The Senate Government Institutions Committee had SCR 1038 on its agenda for today (Feb. 4).
Cheuvront said state employees will likely face at least a 5 percent pay cut in the coming year. Under his proposal, that would mean a $1,200 hit for lawmakers.
Tom Jenney, executive director of the American Federation of Taxpayers in Arizona, said lawmakers need to focus on more substantial budget cuts.
“It’s one of those things that sounds very good on a press release, but it doesn’t add up to a whole lot of money,” he said.
Sal Rivera, chairman of the nonpartisan Commission on the Salaries of State Elective Officers, said reducing lawmakers’ pay would be a bad idea. His group has consistently recommended that voters approve raises.
“Our legislators have very important jobs and they should be compensated at a level that reflects the importance of their jobs and all the time they put into helping lead our state,” he said.
Sen. Meg Burton-Cahill, a Tempe Democrat, said the already low pay lawmakers receive for what is essentially a full-time job keeps many people from serving. She plans to leave the Senate after this term because she can’t afford it.
“I understand the intention (of the resolution), but my position is we will never have our state employees treated properly until there are people here who understand what it is like to live on a low wage, which won’t happen as long as only the independently wealthy can afford to be legislators,” she said.
Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican who signed on as a co-sponsor, said he doesn’t buy into the argument that low pay hurts the quality of the Legislature.
“No one down here is down here for the pay, and do you really want a legislator who can’t figure out how to make the other half of his living on the other half of his time?” he said.