Mar 7, 2012 11:02 AM by Matt Stafford

Bill tying lawmaker pay to budget gets 1st hearing

DENVER (AP) - Colorado lawmakers would have to forgo their pay and benefits if they don't agree on a budget on time under a proposal that gets its first hearing in the state Senate Wednesday.

Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer, the bill sponsor, said the idea resonates with constituents because it sends the message that lawmakers want to hold themselves accountable.

"People get it, and they agree with the philosophy, 'If you don't do your job, you don't get paid,'" he said. But he acknowledged the idea has not been received well by some lawmakers.

"Inside the Capitol, it's not very popular," Shaffer said.

Under the bill, lawmakers' pay and benefits would be suspended if they force a special session for failing to finalize a state budget before they adjourn for the year. Such a scenario has not played out in recent memory, and lawmakers have questioned Shaffer's motives because he's running for Congress.

Republican Sen. Kent Lambert, a member of the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee, said earlier this year that Shaffer was second-guessing lawmakers' ability to compromise and called the bill "insulting."

In Colorado, lawmakers are paid $30,000 annually, so they receive $2,500 per month.

A Senate committee will hear the bill Wednesday afternoon.

"I think there's a legitimate need for something like this," Shaffer said.

A few states have mechanisms in place to give incentives for lawmakers to pass budgets in a timely manner.

In Washington state, lawmakers can be charged with criminal misdemeanor if they don't pass a budget 30 days before the start of a new biennium, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That provision has not been used, NCSL said. New York lawmakers can also have their pay suspended if the budget is overdue, and California voters approved a 2010 ballot measure that also withholds lawmakers' pay if they don't pass a budget by June 15, according to NCSL.


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