A little background FYI on the West Virginia legislative pay raise Senate Bill 740 on the floor of the house.

Currently members of the legislature have a base salary of $20k per year.

They also receive an expense reimbursement of about $131 per day for the 60 day session which is about $7,860. This covers the cost of hotels, food, etc.

We also receive about $135 pay per day for interim and special sessions plus $131 each day to cover expenses.

Most legislators receive about $30,000 to $35,000 in total compensation per year depending on special sessions and interim committees.

A few committee chairs and officers get what are referred to as “duty days” which they can take at their discretion to engage in meetings, preparatory work in advance of special sessions and interims, etc. Typically capped at about 30 days for a chair of say Education. This adds about $8,000 per year if they use every duty day.

So for major committee chairs work with regular session, interim sessions and special sessions a committee chair works typically 100 days per year and then if they use all of their duty days perhaps 130 to 135 total days. This totals about $40,000 to $45,000 of pay and expense money for these major committee chairs. (Judiciary, Finance, Education committees are a few.)

Why does this matter?

Senate President Craig Blair makes exhaustive use of “duty days” to the extent that in 2022 he received over $65,000 in pay plus at least $35,000 in expense money, totaling over $100,000 for a $20,000 per year job. In total he claimed to have worked more than 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year.

No senate president in the history of West Virginia has abused duty days to the extent Craig Blair has abused duty days.

None were even close.

What is particularly concerning with the proposed legislative pay raise bill is what happens if Craig Blair continues to abuse duty days to the same degree.

For the typical legislator, the pay raise will change the $20,000 in base to $29,000 and all other pay and expenses combined with the base will total about $50,000 in total compensation. This probably makes sense. There is a lot of work that gets done outside of Charleston that is uncompensated for most legislators.

However, if the bill passes as proposed, and assuming Craig Blair continues to abuse duty days as he has, Craig Blair will be paid between $150,000 and $180,000 annually in total compensation.

It is absurd to assume Blair works more than 260 days per year in order to lead one of the least productive legislative bodies in West Virginia history.

The only way to reasonably deal with a legislative pay raise would be to cap the total number of duty days at 50 per year. Anything beyond that is just punching a clock to get more money.

My personal belief is the average legislator does deserve a little more pay. I voted against the bill because nobody deserves $180,000 for a part time legislative job.

In fact, this bill would potentially make the president of the senate the highest compensated elected official in West Virginia.

Current pay for the governor is $150,000, Attorney General is $95,000, Secretary of State is $95,000, etc. Even if the bill to raise pay for these offices passes, the senate president will make about the same as the governor at $180,000 and more than any of the others, who will be paid $115,000. Not bad for a part time job.

This bill greased through the senate with little discussion or debate and is now on the floor of the House of Delegates.

As part of the relatively new Republican majorities in the legislature, I believe we have to hold ourselves to the highest standard and avoid the appearance of corruption.

Allowing a senate president to abuse the system in this way looks and is corrupt.

You can see what the current pay is here https://westvirginia.opengov.com/data/#/42541/query=7D5147BB56487C07DF4E65B9B9109658&embed=n . This does not include expense money. The pay raise will increase both pay and expense money by about 50%.

I believe this link shows expense money https://westvirginia.opengov.com/data/#/52532/query=E93F41C9F7C3E73377041643A0B08303&embed=n .

Republican Robert Karnes is State Senator for the 11th District, which serves Randolph County.

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