Commission recommends pay raise for Alaska lawmakers | Alaska

(The Center Square) – Alaska lawmakers could see their pay rise by an additional $10,000 a year, but their day-to-day expenses would need further scrutiny.

The Alaska State Officers Compensation Board voted on Tuesday to recommend raising lawmakers’ salaries from $54,000 a year to $64,000 a year. The increase would come with a $100 daily cap on per diems. The previous cap was near $300.

In addition to reducing per diems, lawmakers would be required to produce receipts before being reimbursed for their expenses. Under the current system, legislators do not have to produce receipts.

The change aims to increase accountability for lawmakers’ day-to-day expenses, which have remained largely unregulated until now. Lack of accountability for daily expenses was discussed between commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting and some of them have said they are concerned that the current system does not give them the ability to ensure lawmakers spend per diem money the way it is supposed to be used.

The commission also offered a 1% pay raise for Governor Mike Dunleavy, but the commissioners said the governor turned down the raise. The governor’s current annual salary is $145,000.

Much of the talk surrounding lawmakers’ pay has focused on making it fair to average Alaskans. Commissioner Lee Cruise said lawmakers should be accountable to the people and not receive salaries that would earn them more than the Alaskan average.

The commissioners heard from former state Rep. Ray Metcalfe, who argued for an increase in lawmakers’ pay, saying he had to dip into his savings to top up his salary. He suggested limiting outside income and outside interests and increasing legislators’ salaries.

“If you don’t have a sugar daddy in the Legislature today, you can’t survive,” Metcalfe said. “You will soon be out of the legislature.”

The board considered a slew of options ranging from salaries as high as $74,500 with a $15,000 cap on per diems to no raise at all. The one thing all commissioners agreed on was the receipt-based reimbursement system for per diems.

The approved motion passed, 3-1, with Cruise voting against the measure. Johnny Ellis said his vote was “a reluctant ‘yes'” and felt the proposed salary of $64,000 was too low.

The commission meets again on January 18 to make its final recommendation, which will be sent to the Legislative Assembly by January 28.

William M. Mayer