HJR6: Changes in compensation

There’s some housekeeping business the Legislature would like to handle in the first week of the session this year, which will bring greater transparency at little added cost to the taxpayer.

Currently, lawmakers receive roughly $16,000 per year in compensation. The bulk of that comes from housing and food stipends — whether they’re needed or not.

This amount is determined by an independent compensation commission. The Legislature can not determine their own salary or give themselves a raise. Nor can the Legislature alter the commission’s recommendations. In 2012, the independent commission recommended that the Legislature adopt a new salary structure that increase transparency and accountability.

Total compensation will remain roughly the same, while expenses will have to be detailed and legitimate to be reimbursed. This will bring an estimated cost increase of $150,000 per year in a total compensation budget of nearly $2 million while significantly improving the transparency to the taxpayer.

The Commission’s recommendation improves transparency in two ways:

1. Lodging and food costs must now be justified to receive reimbursement. And,

2. The public will know exactly what lawmakers are being reimbursed for, and how much they are getting paid.

The full 2012 Commission Report can be found here. LCC Second Revised Supplemental Report.

This isn’t a new issue. Multiple editorial boards have called for this kind of change for years, and the Legislature was well on its way to passing the joint rule last year before the clock ran out. This is the same bill, the same issues and the same ideas that we talked about extensively last year. You can watch the House floor debate here.

The Legislature has self-imposed a deadline to pass this bill before the first week this year, so that it qualifies for the first paycheck of the session.

Here’s some additional information, via Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune, written in 2012.