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PART-TIME SENATE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

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To the editor:
I applaud Senator Richards for his recent legislation to make the Senate "a part-time job for part-time pay." This issue was part of my platform before it became public. Part-time job for part-time pay is a great concept but I have some concerns about how it might be applied.
First, like our starting teachers, I don't consider 30k to be part-time pay. Second, senatorial salary is only the tip of the iceberg. I worry that the proposal does little to reduce the overall cost of the Legislature. Senatorial salaries are huge but not our biggest expense. The real goal should be to reduce the 15 million plus Senate operating budget. What happens to their staff, cell phones, cars, etc? Will they still be able to hire very expensive consultants? If Senators "have to work" more than the specified 60 days, do they get a huge per diem? If so, how is "work" defined and who authorizes it?
I think 60 days is about right for the number of days. I suggest that pay should be around $5,000 to $10,000 and there be a fixed operating budget of $50,000 per senator. Even if the number of senators is not reduced this would lower the budget from 15 million to less than a million dollars and set an example for the rest of government.
We should also be creative about meeting times. If meetings were held during the evening and/or on weekends, a reduction in days would make it possible for Senators to hold full-time jobs and for the community to easily attend meetings. Of course meetings should be teleconferenced to reduce travel costs.
I very much agree that the job of Senator should not be a career. It would be interesting to see how many of the current aspirants will opt out if the salary and benefits are drastically reduced. I won't.
Charles Balch

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