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Emmer would cut benefits and per diems for elected officials

State Rep. Tom Emmer has been careful not to release many details of his plan to cut state spending — a big part of his gubernatorial agenda that is to be revealed more fully at a later date — but he did give the St. Cloud Times newspaper one tidbit on Thursday.

He said he’d like to cut benefits and per diems for elected officials, the paper said.

Perks for constitutional officers and legislators include health insurance, pensions and per diems — extra payments for attending meetings and other events — and just encourage the trend toward career politicians, Emmer told the paper.

“People seek to serve, and once they get elected, it’s too good a gig to give up,” Emmer said.

But otherwise the paper couldn’t get him to commit yet on which big cuts he’ll use to redesign government and whittle the state deficit. He’s still researching the issue and it “could be months” before he reveals the details of balancing the budget, the paper said.

Emmer hinted to the paper that there “there might be some overlap” between Minnesota’s 87 counties and 339 independent school districts. But when asked which jurisdictions might be combined, he said:

“You’re not gonna get me to go there.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Scott Chambers on 06/25/2010 - 11:42 am.

    Emmer is barking up the wrong tree. If we don’t pay our legislators well, we’re not as likely to attract good people to the job — people who are willing to tolerate the contradicting expectations we have for them. We also won’t attract good people who can’t afford to take 4-5 months a year off from their job. Instead, we’re more likely to get people from the wealthier end of the spectrum who CAN afford the pittance we pay them.

    I agree that pay should come in the form of taxable salary, not in the form of non-taxable per diem. Out-of-town legislators should get a fair allowance for temporary lodging in St Paul and a fair per diem for their meals and incidental expenses, but per diem should not end up being a large part of their compensation.

    Ultimately, however, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Let’s pay them well and have high expectations for performance — it will save our state money in the long run.

  2. Submitted by Mike Haubrich on 06/25/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    As a friend to several legislators, they are poorly compensated for the amount of time that they devote to their “part time” jobs. Many of them use the health insurance they get from their full time jobs. Outstate legislators need to have per diems to support their families and themselves while they are in St. Paul. $33000 is not a salary that any Rep. is going to use to get rich.

    Emmer’s solutions so far for billion dollar deficits have been nickel and dime recommendations; create a single “department of water (I think)” to replace four departments that have their own separate regulatory authorities.

    He says he is going to “rethink government.” He only has 4 months to completely change everything and this so far is the best peek he has given us.

    Leadership!

  3. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 06/25/2010 - 02:34 pm.

    Maybe Emmer is going to go after the salaries of small town mayors. A quick check showed that some suburban mayors make up to $6000 for a job that must be at least half time.

  4. Submitted by Tom Rees on 06/25/2010 - 03:22 pm.

    Representative Emmer should know about legislative per diem. He was a plaintiff in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the legislature when the daily per diem rate was increased from $66 to $77. For the past biennium he accepted per diem payments during the legislative session for seven days a week including Holidays. I believe that legislators know what they are getting into when they sign their affidavit of candidacy. I would challenge the statement that if the current compensation package is not enhanced that only the wealthy will seek legislative office.

  5. Submitted by Scott Chambers on 06/26/2010 - 12:22 pm.

    I didn’t say “only the wealthy will seek legislative office.” I said, “we’re more likely to get people from the wealthier end of the spectrum.”

    I doubt many middle-class people with families can afford to make $33,000 if they otherwise would make more than that.

  6. Submitted by Wayne Swickley on 06/28/2010 - 11:42 am.

    I read the St. Cloud article, and there’s no mention of how much money this scheme would save the taxpayers of Minnesota. Nor does it mention what percentage of the $5-to-$9 billion shortfall this would address, though I suspect that “a thimbleful in an ocean” is a reasonable comparison.

    Too, I’m not seeing how much of such reimbursement Mr. Emmer received during his tenure as a state representative. Perhaps he could release this information to the public, who paid it to him.

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