A fifth of Washington’s state lawmakers have now lined up to cut their pay.
The newest requests for 3 percent pay cuts came this week from five senators and a dozen more House members, according to the Secretary of Senate and House Chief Clerk offices. An email notice went to Senate members on Tuesday, and more requests are reportedly on the way.
As of Friday, 25 House and five Senate members had answered the call of legislation that large majorities in both chambers passed in late May. SB 5860 spelled out 3 percent pay cuts for most state-government workers starting July 1 – and on pages 2 and 3 it encouraged elected officials to follow suit.
Most pay-cut requests instead came after stories in The Olympian on July 31 and Aug. 7. The stories said that as of July, only four House members and four statewide officials, including Gov. Chris Gregoire, had elected to cut their pay.
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All five Senate requests were made this week. The senators included: Democrats Sharon Nelson of Vashon Island, Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle, newly appointed Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, Scott White of Seattle, and Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla.
The dozen new House requests were filed by Republican Reps. Brad Klippert of Kennewick, Larry Haler of Richland, Susan Fagan of Pullman, Hans Zeiger of Sumner and Norma Smith of Clinton. The Democrats were Reps. Roger Goodman of Kirkland, who is running for Congress, David Frockt of Seattle, Ruth Kagi of Lake Forest Park, Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, Kathy Haigh of Shelton, Andy Billig of Spokane, and appointee Sharon Wylie of Vancouver.
Several members have said it was a matter of showing solidarity with public-sector workers whose pay has been cut in budget maneuvers used to help close a $5 billion budget gap.
The pay cuts for general-government workers are expected to save more than $300 million over two years. But those reductions were only a small part of what the Legislature did to close a budget gap of more than $5 billion.
Many lawmakers also said they hadn’t waived their pay sooner because they didn’t know about bill language that created a pay waiver form at www.salaries.wa.gov. SB 5860 passed 72-to-24 in the House and 36-to-10 in the Senate.
Rank-and-file lawmakers earn $42,106-a-year pay, while Speaker Frank Chopp earns $50,106. So cuts of 5 percent cost Chopp $208.78 per month and cuts of 3 percent cost Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Thurston County, about $105.26 per month. Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt earns $46,106 as minority leader and he is giving up $115.27 per month.
Alexander was among the eight lawmakers who requested pay cuts more than a week ago. Others included Republican Reps. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup, and Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor, and Democratic Reps. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw, Tina Orwall of Normandy Park, Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, Mike Sells of Everett, and Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim.
The first four to cut their pay effective July 1 were: Speaker Chopp, by 5 percent; Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, 5.011 percent; Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, 5 percent; and Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, 3 percent.
Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, told House clerks that he also is filing a request. Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood said he will too – even though he voted against the pay cut bill.
“Even though I’m not guilty of a double-standard, I’m going to do it,’’ Carrell said.
Asked during the session why they didn’t cut their own pay, many lawmakers pointed – accurately – to a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1986 that gave exclusive salary-setting authority to a citizen salary commission. They noted that the commission had the power to freeze or raise pay but not cut it, and some lawmakers like Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, sponsored constitutional amendments to make that change.
Some lawmakers are refusing to cut their pay – such as Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn, and Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County. Both say they are not fully compensated for their time and expenses as it is.
Fraser and some others say they took less in expense reimbursements during the special session that ended in May. In fact, Fraser once again took no per diem – the $90 daily expense allowance – during the 105-day regular session either.
Brad Hendrickson, deputy secretary of the Senate, said five members declined the $90 per diem during the 30-day special session: Fraser, Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond; Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Bellevue; and Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds.
In the House, chief deputy Bernard Dean said 17 members declined per diem in special session. The Republicans were Reps. Katrina Asay of Milton, Kevin Parker of Spokane, Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup, J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, and Hans Zeiger of Puyallup.
The Democrats declining special session per diem were Speaker Chopp and Reps. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, Fred Finn of Thurston County, David Frockt of Seattle, Kathy Haigh of Shelton, Sam Hunt of Olympia, Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Marcie Maxwell of Renton, Tina Orwall of Normandy Park, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater, Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, and Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor.
Five statewide officials including Secretary of State Sam Reed and Auditor Brian Sonntag did not cut their pay but pledged – or were in the process of promising – to donate 3 percent of their pay to charities instead. The three besides Gregoire who cut their pay were Treasurer Jim McIntire, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn.
Look for a shorter version of this story in weekend print editions of The Olympian and News Tribune.UPDATE: Corrects reference to share of lawmakers cutting pay to one fifth.