No Pay Raise for Judges, Lawmakers on the Other Hand …

By Beacon Staff

Matt Gouras of the Associated Press just filed a story on the quick demise of a bill that would have raised judges’ salaries across the state. Apparently, Montana judges wanted to drop the proposal because of the state’s tight budget. On the same day, as Gouras points out, a bill that would provide lawmakers $200 a month when they aren’t in Helena – or about $4,000 between each biannual session – moved forward.

From his story:

But a separate committee in the House saw plenty of support Friday for a plan to give the 150 lawmakers a $200 monthly stipend when the Legislature is not in session. Overall, it would cost the state about $400,000 next year — roughly the same as the proposed judge’s pay bill.

The sponsor says it is not a pay raise, but simply a reimbursement for work and expenses.

The plan would give the lawmakers, who convene in Helena once every two years for 90 days, a stipend for the 20 months they are not in regular session.

Currently, lawmakers get a total of about $17,000 in total pay and per diem for those regular sessions. The stipend would provide an extra $4,000 during the interim.

Supporters say the money is needed to reimburse them for the work they do all the time doing state business while meeting with and helping constituents. They argued it is more necessary now that the so-called constituency accounts, which used to let them take unreported donations from corporations and individuals, have been banned.

Sponsor Rep. Dave McAlpin, D-Missoula, said he recognizes many will see it as a pay increase. But he said that is not the case, and it is more like reimbursing lawmakers for expenses they incur.

He said the $200-per-month proposal could be lowered.

“I think we could settle on an amount less, considering the tough economic times we are facing,” he said.

The House State Administration Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.

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