The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee just approved, after considerable tumult, a $500,000 increase in the Legislature’s budget 2014.
Part of the money will be used to pay for more legislative travel to regional and national conferences. Other amounts will be used to hire more legislative staff — including, intriguingly, possibly partisan legislative staffers to go along with the existing nonpartisan staff. Finally, around $65,000 will pay for the higher legislator per diem authorized in a bill that passed this year.
After the motion was introduced, appropriators paused for a long period of conferencing any lobbying. When they reconvened, Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson and House Speaker Brian Gosch appeared to testify for it.
The Legislature is “by far the least costliest” of the three branches, Gosch said. When its staff are overworked, “they make errors.” Approving extra funding, he said, well make the Legislature “a more effective legislative body.”
Olson praised hiring some partisan legislative staff.
“We have to rely on the nonpartisan nature of the LRC to keep secrets… that puts them in an unfair position at many times,” Olson said.
In the 2011 budget cuts, the Legislature’s budget was cut by around $650,000.
Some lawmakers were highly skeptical of increasing the Legislature’s own budget when K-12 education and Medicaid providers weren’t getting more than 3 percent bumps in ongoing funding.
Appropriations “just decided $500,000 legislative travel money was more important than K-12 and Medicaid funding,” Rep. Susan Wismer wrote on her Twitter account.
But the full committee adopted the proposal on a 12-6 vote.