Generally speaking, we adamantly oppose spending increases because there is already too much waste and inefficiency in government. However, there is one budget item increasing next year that we can get behind, and that is a per diem raise for lawmakers outside the metro area.
Here’s why this isn’t a bad thing.
Colorado is an expensive place to live, and elected office shouldn’t only be accessible to the rich who have extra income to live on. Currently, lawmakers only earn $30,000 a year plus a per diem. Next year, members living outside a 50-mile radius of the Capitol will see their per diem increase from $189 a day for expenses to $195 a day.
ColoradoWatchDog.org wrote about the increase this week, noting that this is going to cost taxpayers and additional $35,000 next year, and we understand why this would aggravate some folks. However, we believe that you have to compensate people in a fair and competitive way in order to attract talented candidates for public office.
And, while the legislature is only in session part time, the job is certainly full time for many lawmakers, especially those who have long commutes from places like Durango or Sterling. Living away from home for four months out of the year also requires finding a place to live in Denver, where the average rent for a one bedroom is $1,351 a month.
The point is, we can’t expect our elected officials to live like paupers. Otherwise, we will continue to struggle to attract talented people to serve.