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Sun, Sept. 22

Editorial: Lawmakers choose 11th hour to give themselves a raise

Never accuse the elected officials in the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate of not being smart.

Or sneaky.

In an 11th hour move Monday, Arizona lawmakers put the finishing touches on the state’s 2019 $11.8 billion budget. In the process, they also made sure to put some more money into their own pockets.

Interestingly, legislators chose to do this on Memorial Day, a paid holiday for most folks and a day where patriotic observances and outdoor barbecues trump a visit to the State Capitol to play citizen watchdog over the way lawmakers spend our tax dollars.

Because the annual $24,000 salary of legislators cannot be increased without voter approval, lawmakers instead chose to triple the daily allowance they now receive. For non-Maricopa County officials, lawmakers approved the per diem of $60 a day to $129 a day for lodging and $56 for meals. The rate for lawmakers who reside in Maricopa County jumped to $92.50 a day.

It bears emphasis that they did so after refusing just last week to restore all of the funds that have been cut during the recession in state aid to public schools.

What makes this move especially troubling is the timing of it all. Had this measure been introduced at any other time during the 2019 legislative session, it would have been fully scrutinized and vetted in a public process. In other words, it would have provided an opportunity for the Average Joe Taxpayer to voice his or her approval or disapproval of putting more taxpayer money into the pockets of those elected to the House and Senate. Given the fact that voters have regularly shot down salary increases for lawmakers, it’s unlikely the move to raise their per diem would be looked at favorably by those same taxpayers.

Instead, lawmakers waited until the last minute to put this one up to vote, and did so on Memorial Day to avoid public scrutiny.

In other words, they snuck one through on us.

Never accuse your elected officials of not being smart … or sneaky.

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