Pay question splits local delegation

By The Mercury

One member of the local legislative delegation is working for free this week.

State Rep. Tom Phillips is listed among five senators and 19 members of the House who have declined to accept their salary and/or expenses during the 2012 session’s overtime period. Phillips, a Republican, was appointed to the 67th District seat in February.

All other members of the area delegation — Sens. Roger Reitz, Mark Taddiken and Dennis Pyle and State Reps. Sydney Carlin, Richard Carlson and Sharon Schwartz — are being paid at the normal rates for each day the session extends beyond the statutory 90 days. That normal rate includes a salary of $88.66 per day in salary and $123 per day in expenses.

Like 16 of the 24 who filed papers declining their salary and/or expenses during the overtime session, Phillips is declining his salary only; he is accepting payment for living expenses. Only seven lawmakers are declining both salary and expenses and one is declining expenses only.

Reitz, a Senate moderate, on Wednesday lambasted the temperament of debate in that chamber that has delayed progress on several vital issues. “This is a tragedy of state government,” he said, characterizing the acrimony inside Tuesday’s Republican caucus as “the worst I’ve ever seen.” Reitz said the inability of lawmakers to make progress on a budget or on other lingering issues “shows there’s very little thinking of what’s best for Kansas…even the (proposed) compromises are offensive.”

At the same time he defended his decision not to waive salary or expenses.

“I have to have my secretary here with me,” he said. “I didn’t do this work pro bono” A physician when the Legislature is not in session, he noted that he is not seeing patients and is having to cancel appointments this week. He is paying his secretary’s salary out of his own pocket because state funding for those positions expired at the end of the 90-day term.

Phillips said he was motivated to decline salary by the potential for creating a disincentive to wrapping the session up.

“It’s a statement to get our work done in regular session,” he said of his decision. “The taxpayers expect us to get our work done.” As for accepting expenses, he noted that he still has to pay for eating and lodging. “Those are out of pocket expenses that I have to incur,” he said, comparing it to a cost of doing business.

Carlin acknowledged that last Friday’s deadline for lawmakers to decide whether to decline salary sailed past her unnoticed, but added that it probably wouldn’t have changed her decision. “If I was in the conference committee not willing to negotiate a compromise that was good for the people, then I ought to give it (salary) up,” she said. “But I’m not one of those people.” Like Reitz, she noted that she is paying her secretary to work .

The two dozen who have turned down salary and/or expenses include 22 Republicans and two Democrats. The list includes State Rep. James Fawcett, a Junction City Republican, and State Rep; Vern Swanson, a Clay Center Republican.

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