"He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."
Matthew 25:33

Monday, January 29, 2007

Capital Call In at Town Square TV

On Thursday, January 25th on Town Square Television was a show called Capitol Call In. It is a show that allows the local citizens of northern Dakota County to call in and ask our elected officials questions. In attendance were Representatives Joe Atkins, and Rick Hansen from district 39 and Karla Bigham from Cottage Grove. Also present was Senator Katie Sieben. Senator James Metzen was absent from the festivities.

Because of the public concern over their self imposed increase in per diem, and my own curiosity, I decided I had better call in.

I introduced myself and asked, "In the last seven years Senator Metzen has taken $66,630.00 in per diem. Joe Atkins, you took $24,446.00 in the last four years. Rick Hansen, you have taken $13,266.00 in the two years you have been in office. How do you justify taking so much in per diem when you all live within ten minutes of the capitol, and how do you justify a 45% increase in per diem? All four of them basically defended their actions by claiming the pay is so low and that they take a slightly less percentage then do out state legislators. None addressed the issue of the 45% increase. Joe Atkins claimed my numbers were a little high. I went to the TV station the following day and purchased a copy of the show so I will be posting the transcript of certain issues discussed at a later date.

I was just reading the Senate Journal for January 8th 2007. In it James Metzen declares 15 miles for a round trip from his home to the capitol and back. Senator Leroy A. Stumpf of district 1 has declared 649 miles round trip. I believe this man deserves all the per diem he can get!

Saturday, January 27th I gave Joe Atkins a call to let him know that I was quite confident that my figures were correct and where I got my information. I had to tell this to his answering machine. Today Joe called me back and agreed that my figures were indeed correct.

I recently read an opinion piece written by Phil Krinkie titled "Black robes and powdered wigs." This was published in the St. Paul Legal Ledger on January 22nd. He addresses the per diem increase by writing, "A Minnesota state senator could now receive up to an additional $210 each week just for meals - and that is in addition to the $31,500 salary. Of course they took this action in committee without a vote of the full Senate - what courage."

The per diem has been increased from $66 to $96 per day. I believe that the legislative session is 140 days. Divide $31,500 by 140 and you get $225. How many of us common folk earn $225 per day let alone get an additional $96 a day lunch money.

Krinkie goes on to say, "Should state senators earn more than minimum wage? Of course they should. But who are they really concerned about? Their actions out of the gate in 2007 would illustrate they are more concerned about their own wallets than that of average Minnesotans."

Right on Phil!

One point I must look into is what committee approved the increase. I will keep you posted.

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