Lawmakers could get big raises

Published On: Mar 18 2013 11:11:29 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 18 2013 11:44:12 PM HST

Hawaii lawmakers could soon get a huge pay increase. The state salary commission recommended legislators get a 21 percent raise this summer.

Island lawmakers can put in long hours and late nights when the legislature is in session. It can be a lot of work for a part-time job, especially considering lawmakers haven't had a pay raise since 2009.

"People get into this not for the money, but to serve other folks at the genuine level. They don't do it for the money," said Rep. Bob McDermott.

Currently, each Senator and Representative, with the exception of the Senate President and House Speaker, makes $46,272. Cuts in 2009 froze pay at that level where it has remains.

On Monday, the state salary commission recommended lawmakers get paid $55,896 starting July 1, which is when those salary reductions end.

That amount is what lawmakers would be getting if their salary had been gradually increased.

Several lawmakers feel the nearly $10,000 pay increase would help attract the best and brightest to the State Capitol, something echoed by some residents.

"I think it's a good idea because if I was a lawmaker I would have a hard job. I would want a pay raise too, so all the power to them. I hope they make good decisions for us," said Makiki resident Lisa Yelas.

Not everyone feels lawmakers need to make more money, including some at the State Capitol.

"I think our pay is fine the way it is. It is a part-time job. It's a very good salary for a part-time job. The problem is too many people make it a full-time profession," said McDermott.

"I don't think it’s a good idea. They're taking money from the economy to pay themselves. Why should everyone suffer so they can get a better BMW?" asked Honolulu resident Chris Evans.

Lawmakers aren't the only ones who would be getting pay raises under the recommendations. Judges would also get a two percent increase each year over the next five years.

The executive branch of government would also have salary increases of two percent each year. That would mean a raise for the Governor, Lt. Governor and other appointed officials.

The salary commission based its recommendations on the state's improving revenue reports and members felt that was where pay should be.  Lawmakers will also receive cost of living increases of two percent each year from 2015 through 2018.

The salary recommendations will now go to the governor's office for approval.

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