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The Senate gave itself a 45 percent per diem pay raise yesterday. The vote was 59-7. Here’s more of the details on the vote:

The Senate voted 59-7 to ratify an increase in daily expense allowances from $66 to $96 per senator, a 45 percent boost. The ratification came with a hitch: Those who voted for it automatically get the expense payments, known as per diems. The seven senators who voted against it don’t get it. “You can’t vote ‘no’ and take the dough,” Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said after the vote.

The seven dissenters, all Republicans, can still collect expense checks. But first, they must tell the Senate fiscal staff how much they will take, and that paperwork will be public. Voting “no” were Sens. Ray Vandeveer, of Forest Lake; Dick Day, of Owatonna; David Hann, of Eden Prairie; Bill Ingebrigtsen, of Alexandria; Amy Koch, of Buffalo; Geoff Michel, of Edina; and Pat Pariseau, of Farmington.

The per diem allowance is considered part of the Senate’s rules, making it off-limits to a veto. I suggest that we keep this in mind for 2010, when the Senate is next up for re-election. We should keep it in mind in 2008 if any of the senators who voted themselves a major pay raise runs for Norm Coleman’s U.S. Senate seat or a U.S. House seat.

I’d also like to congratulate the Republicans who did the right thing. This won’t go unnoticed. Here’s Dick Day’s quote on the issue:

Day said voters “didn’t send us here to raise our salaries the first days we’re here.”

After voters hear about how legislators voted themselves this big of a raise, I suspect voters won’t take kindly to this. This vote pretty much makes it impossible for me to take Tarryl Clark seriously after she told me that they’d cut out wasteful spending. Why should I believe that they’ll hold oversight hearings to eliminate wasteful spending after she gave herself a 45 percent per diem pay raise? If these senators don’t think that $96 per day meal allowance isn’t wasteful spending, then there isn’t a chance that they’ll find other wasteful spending.

I think this quote sums it all up:

“I don’t know how we spend $96 (a day) on meals,” [Geoff] Michel said during the Senate debate. “That’s a pretty healthy diet.”

Frankly, $96 is more than a week’s worth of groceries for me. They’re getting that per day and they expect me to believe that they’re against wasteful government spending? Forgive me if I don’t think that they’ve got a shred of credibility on being fiscally prudent.

No further action was required to raise the per diem after the Jan. 10 vote. But Vandeveer forced the full Senate to take a second look at it. He called the per diem increase a backdoor pay raise and said all senators should vote on it so voters can hold them accountable. In an unprecedented action, the Rules Committee agreed.

A special tip of the hat to Sen. Vandeveer for forcing the vote so we can hold these senators accountable:

DEMOCRATS VOTING YES: Anderson (St. Paul); Bakk (Cook); Berglin (Minneapolis); Betzold (Fridley); Bonoff (Minnetonka); Carlson (Eagan); Chaudhary (Fridley); Clark (St. Cloud); Cohen (St. Paul); Dibble (Minneapolis); Doll (Burnsville); Erickson Ropes (Winona); Foley (Coon Rapids); Higgins (Minneapolis); Kubly (Granite Falls); Langseth (Glyndon); Larson (Bloomington); Latz (St. Louis Park); Lourey (Kerrick); Lynch (Rochester); Marty (Roseville); Metzen (South St. Paul); Moua (St. Paul); Murphy (Red Wing); Olseen (Harris); Olson, M. (Bemidji); Pappas (St. Paul); Pogemiller (Minneapolis); Prettner Solon (Duluth); Rest (New Hope); Rummel (White Bear Lake); Saltzman (Woodbury); Saxhaug (Grand Rapids); Scheid (Brooklyn Park); Sheran (Mankato); Sieben (Newport); Skoe (Clearbrook); Skogen (Hewitt); Sparks (Austin); Stumpf (Plummer); Tomassoni (Chisholm); Torres Ray (Minneapolis); Vickerman (Tracy); Wiger (North St. Paul)

REPUBLICANS VOTING YES: Fischbach (Paynesville); Frederickson (New Ulm); Gerlach (Apple Valley); Gimse (Willmar); Johnson (Ham Lake); Jungbauer (East Bethel); Koering (Fort Ripley); Limmer (Maple Grove); Neuville (Northfield); Olson, G. (Minnetrista); Ortman (Chanhassen); Robling (Jordan); Rosen (Fairmont); Senjem (Rochester); Wergin (Princeton)

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