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6/10/2019
Not the time

Change is difficult, and now isn’t the time for it.

The Legislature passed a law a year ago cutting off lawmakers’ per diem in cases when a budget didn’t get passed during its 121-day regular session.

As a result, legislators haven’t been receiving per diem — about $302 per day for lawmakers who don’t live in Juneau year round — since the start of the special session.

Legislators could change the per diem rule with a majority vote, and they could even vote for back per diem, according to Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. Stevens points out that Juneau is an expensive place to live and legislators shouldn’t lose money while representing their districts. He also notes that legislators get paid a $50,400 salary.

But former Rep. Jason Grenn, who proposed the new law under which the Legislature is currently operating, says that now is not the time to adjust legislators’ pay.

Grenn argues it isn’t fair to the public for legislators to take what amounts to about half a million dollars total while not completing its job in the time allotted. It has yet to pass a budget, and, of course, money is the issue.

It can be difficult to adjust to a new way of doing things. And perhaps the idea was great at the time it was adopted. But, as Grenn says, now is not the time to change it.