This article talks about how the state legislature is asking for our suggestions on how to balance the budget. How pathetic.

Through Tuesday, the hyperlink added to the Minnesota House page attracted 1,200 suggestions, said Andrew Wittenborg, director of public affairs for the House DFL Caucus.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Wittenborg, referring to the number of e-mails generated by the link, which he credited House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, for originating.

Ideally, he said, Anderson Kelliher and other state lawmakers would like to incorporate some e-mailed suggestions into legislation during the lengthy budget session to help pare costs or streamline operations.

“She feels strongly (that voters should) be able to actively engage their legislators and have some input,” said Wittenborg, who likened the voter input box to a property tax suggestion mechanism used in 2007. “This is the whole new level of input that we’ve seen with the Obama administration and increased use of the Internet,” he said.

I like the idea of legislators listening to their constituents. That’s all I like about this idea. All summer long, DFL committee chairs held hearing after hearing. They got reports saying that the economy was getting worse. As far back as prior to the national conventions, legislators were being told that the deficit could hit $4,000,000,000.

Instead of working on putting together a budget that would deal with the deficit, Democrats just ran up big per diem bills. According to this chart, DFL senators worked lots of overtime outside the 2008 session. According to this chart, Sandy Pappas collected $7,104 of tax-free per diem when the Senate wasn’t in session. Calculated at $96/day, that’s 74 days worth of meetings/hearings. That’s nearly 15 full weeks when the legislature was in session.

Larry Pogemiller collected $7,008 of tax free per diem, or 73 days worth of out-of-session per diem expenses. Linda Scheid collected $6,816 of tax free per diem, or 71 days worth of out-of-session per diem. Linda Berglin and Ann Rest each collected $6,624 in tax free out-of-session per diem, or 69 days worth of per diem.

On the House side, where representatives ‘only’ get $77/day in per diem, Al Juhnke collected $7,007 worth of tax free out-of-session per diem, or 91 days worth of per diem. Speaker Kelliher collected $6,776 worth of tax free out-of-session per diem, or 88 days worth of per diem.

Despite putting in all that time, the DFL told reporters that they wouldn’t be putting out their own budget, that they’ll be working off of Gov. Pawlenty’s budget. After holding 70-90 days worth of hearings while the legislature wasn’t in session, the only thing the DFL produced was bills.



Then they have the audacity to tell us that, despite having gotten paid all that tax-free per diem, they don’t have a budget plan? After all those hearings and meetings, what did their constituents get out of it besides thousands of dollars worth of wasted per diem payments?

Did we get any reform-minded legislation from these hearings? If yes, what were the reform-minded legislation that those hearings produced? If these hearings didn’t produce any reform-minded legislation, why did Democrats charge Minnesota’s taxpayers thousands of dollars of per diem for doing nothing?

I said here that the DFL leadership team has refused to lead. At this point, I’d be satisfied if they simply didn’t cause harm to Minnesota’s taxpayers. If these legislators aren’t producing important work product, why are they getting paid for these out-of-session hearings?

That’s before I start asking why senators need $96/day in per diem or representatives need $77/day in per diem. Remember that out-state legislators get paid for their travelling expenses and are eligible for a housing allowance.

That’s a major reason why my blood boils when I hear Larry Pogemiller talk about shared sacrifice. I’m not often into giving advice. I’d rather offer suggestions or persuade people into agreeing with me. This time, dispensing advice is what’s called for.

Sen. Pogemiller, cut the Senate’s per diem, eliminate the wasted out-of-session committee hearings and put out your own budget. Share in Minnesota’s sacrifice. You’re the majority leader. Lead. If you don’t start sharing in the sacrifice, we’ll find a new majority that takes its responsibilities seriously, that will lead and that will provide solutions to Minnesota’s biggest problems in a timely fashion.

BTW, speaking on behalf of We The People, that isn’t a suggestion. If you don’t remember that you work for us, we’ll remind you in 2010.

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4 Responses to “Revolutionary Concept”

  • Chad A Quigley says:

    My Senator, Ellen Anderson says she “needs” the nearly $16k in per diem she received last year so she can be a “full-time” politician while the remainder of the politicians go back to their regular jobs.
    She claims she pays taxes on the per diem and Sara Linert at the Taxpayers League said it depends on how they do their taxes whether or not they are taxable. Taxable or not, they are supposed to be part-time legislators.

  • DP says:

    If you add up all of the senators expenses it comes to roughly 1.45 million dollars that seems like a heck of a lot of money to spend of part time legislators. If we were to cut that in half we would be saving nearly 750k which would sure save a lot of people on public roles which the DFL seems hell bent on saving. Or if Steve Murphy were to give up half of his nearly 40k that would be a lot of pot holes we could fix, but oh no they couldn’t do that that would require too much from them. If the senates is that high imagine what we are paying in expenses for the house!

  • Gary Gross says:

    Chad, Per diem isn’t taxed because it’s considered a reimbursement for expenses. Your point about this supposing to be a part-time legislature is spot on.

    What’s most upsetting to me is that wer’e getting nothing out of their extra hearings except extra expenditures. That’s a pretty lousy deal if you ask me.

    DP, it bothers me thinking about all the money that’s spent because legislators & bureaucrats haven’t bothered thinking about whether there’s a better way of doing things.

    Suddenly, there’s a crisis & people start thinking about efficiency? From this instant onward, finding new efficiencies should be part of the legislature’s job.

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