Panel considers
legislator pay raise

Raises of 2.5 percent to
14.7 percent are being suggested

By Richard Borreca

A new legislative salary commission is considering various plans to give pay raises to the 76 legislators ranging from 2.5 percent to 14.7 percent every two years until 2012.

The suggested raises would then put the salaries at between $40,100 and $46,400 by 2012, depending on what method is used to calculate the increase.

The salary commission meets every eight years to recommend a salary for the legislators. The pay raises go into effect automatically unless two-thirds of each chamber or the governor reject them.

Because the Legislature previously rejected a pay raise, the legislative pay has remained at $32,000 since 1993.

Commission members said in a draft statement, "Legislators are deserving of some form of an increasing salary in 2005, as opposed to maintaining the status quo or imposing a decrease in pay."

The commission must send its recommendations to the Legislature before the legislative sessions ends in May.

Commission members are Warren Daspit, chairman; former state Tax Director Marie Okamura, vice chairwoman; Sharon Narimatsu; Tom Sugita; and former Maui police Chief Howard Tagomori.

The salary increases would be for lawmakers starting in 2005. Commissioners are also recommending that salary increases should occur every two years to coincide with each new legislative cycle.

The commission said it also wanted to retain the $5,000 pay differential above a legislator's salary for the Senate president and speaker of the House.

Besides the $32,000 pay, lawmakers now get $5,000 for personal expenses. They also are eligible for downtown state parking at rates lower than those for private facilities, and free parking at state airports. They get the same medical and insurance benefits as other state employees, and contributory retirement is the same as for state judges.

Commissioners are basing their choices on adjusting the salary through either the consumer price index or average annual wages.

Legislative reaction appears divided on the need for an increase.

Senate Democratic leader Colleen Hanabusa said the plan would have to come to the Legislature before any discussion can take place.

"They should look at a cost-of-living increase," said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). "It has been a number of years since there has been a pay raise."

She added, "The bottom line is, let us debate it and decide."

Republican Sen. Sam Slom, however, said he was against any pay raise.

"This is public service," said Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai). "All of us got in here knowing they would make a financial sacrifice."

But Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa), Ways and Means Committee chairman, said that while he "wasn't really thinking of this as being a moneymaking venture," he acknowledges that a pay increase is needed.

"I am hoping they do something that will be reasonable," Taniguchi said.

"If you don't, just the wealthy and the really poor would be able to run," he said.

State of Hawaii

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