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

Friday, February 9, 2007

Capitol Call In - the transcript

This is the transcript from the show "Capitol Call In." This show was taped on January 25, 2007 at Town Square Television. This show is aired in northern Dakota County and provides us citizens the opportunity to call in and ask our elected officials questions.

In attendance were Senator Katie Seiben, and Representatives Joe Atkins, Rick Hansen, and Karla Bigham. Senator Metzen was invited but did not show up for some unknown reason.

This is the transcript from the show that I promised from a previous post.

Capitol Call In
January 25th, 2007
Bill Jungbauer- Hello . My name is Bill Jungbauer from W. St. Paul and I see Senator Metzen is not there. I see that in the last seven years he has taken $66,630.00 in per diem. Representative Atkins, the last four years you've taken $24,446.00 in per diem, where as Rick Hansen in the last two it's been over $13,000.00. I would like to know how you justify claiming these expenses when you live ten minutes from the capitol and how do you folks justify a 45% increase in per diem.
Moderator- Okay Bill thanks for that call, of course Bill ran against Senator Jim Metzen who was invited and a unfortunately Bill lost that election but addressed that question to Representative Atkins and Representative Hansen and you have the floor now, you get to respond. We'll start with Joe.
Joe Atkins- And happy to Bill. I wish we had you here, I kind of miss you, in fact we were talking about the forum when we got here, it was like the forum when we got here, it was kind of like the forum we had a few months ago.
In terms of per diem, I don't know Bill if your numbers are right, but they seem a little bit high. I just looked at them a couple of days ago and I think they are high at least in respect to me. If you look at the over all list you'll see that I am always at the very low end of the per diem list as far as justification of the new per diem amount- ummm- we don't actually vote, ahhh, we can opt whether or not, whether or not to take the per diem and for folks who don't know what it is, it's a per day amount that is allocated to legislators to cover expenses for things that they incur. Ummmm, we don't vote on it. We do choose, ahhhh, how much we, ahhh, how much we take, ahhh, and, ahhhh, and I think again you'll see that all of us will be very near the bottom of that, ahhh, that per diem list.
Moderator- Representative Hansen, do you care to respond to that?
Rick Hansen- Sure, umm, you know, I think the rate last year was $69.00 a day, and ahhhh, when you look at the per diem that I take, $66.00 a day for six days a week, generally I'm working on a Saturday, I'm going to community meetings, I'm up at the capitol and this is during session. So for 2005 that was a little over $700.00. I think I did earn $66.00 a day working at the capitol. Ummm, I think that, last night I was at the capitol till 10:30, the night before I was at the capitol until midnight, and ahhh, so far I ahh, I think ahhhh, my constituents got their $66.00 worth when I was at the capitol. So when you add them up, $7000.00. I did not take any per diem during the special session. I didn't think it was appropriate and I didn't take it. When we had a shorter session last year we worked in session January and February so $66.00 a day was about $5000.00, so, I believe you're numbers are correct, but I believe I did work for the district, I believe I am working for the district. Joe's right, the Rules Committee did raise the per diem to $77.00 in the house. In the senate it's $96.00. Ahhh, I think they got their $77.00 worth last night, they got it the night before, and their getting it today. So, ahhh, I took it, I am going to continue to take it. Ahhh, I think I'm doing the job and I like working for folks, but it is part of the responsibility of being a legislator.
Moderator- Senator Sieben, do you have something to add?
Katie Sieben- I just want to add for the folks at home who may not follow this as closely, a lot of people think that we make what members of Congress make and there's some misperceptions that we make over $130,000.00 a year. all legislators make right now about $31,000.00 a year before per diem. I think, ahhhh, last year on my taxes, I took home just over $40,000.00 for instance. So umm, I bring that up cause it's a, it is a full time job, if you want it to be, and ahh, I also bring it up because I know when my seat - the seat that I previously held in district, in district 57a, my house seat, when I decided to run for this, that, the senate seat, and gave up that seat, a number of people talked to me about running for office and a number of people in particular, I know he wouldn't mind me saying this, The mayor of Newport considered running for the state legislature, but decided not to because the pay was too low. Umm, I just bring this up because I feel that if we want good people to serve, umm, we need to be willing to pay em a decent amount and I don't think you know making $40,000.00 a year for the job we do is excessive. And, ahh, I don't know if Representative Bigham has anything to add to that. Ahh, obviously, I didn't mean to take away from you Karla, I'm so pleased that your here.
I will post Bigham's response soon.

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