SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers have put the final touches on a new compensation package that will include more money for the Legislature as a body, but could result in some lawmakers actually taking home less pay.
The Senate voted 23-3 on Friday to approve HJR6, sponsored by Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace. The resolution does not require the governor's signature and goes into effect today.
Legislators will receive a base salary of $273 a day under the new plan and will have to provide receipts for reimbursement for meals and hotels. Those costs will be reimbursed at the same rate as other state employees, according to Dee. The additional cost to the state will be $150,000.
Under the old system, legislators were paid $117 for every day they were in session or attending interim meetings, plus $95 in lodging and $61 for meals. Lawmakers were able to claim lodging and meal expenses, even when they weren't incurred.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said 80 percent of legislators will not financially benefit from the change. He said the tax on the benefits for some, will actually result in less take-home pay.
The old system was a disadvantage for rural lawmakers, according to Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. During discussion Thursday, he said he was supporting the change to potentially benefit the person who will replace him in office one day.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said changes in the compensation system were long overdue.
"It corrects egregious problems for hotels they (lawmakers) don't stay in, meals they don't buy and for miles they don't drive," Weiler said.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who chairs the state's Democratic Party, worries the compensation package doesn't deal with a bigger question. He said it is a financial loss for most to serve in the Legislature and the issue is especially keen in rural areas of the state.
"I would have hoped on a broader picture for a pay raise. I hope that we think some day of raising it to the level that common working people would be able to come up here and serve," Dabakis said.
By law, lawmakers cannot give themselves a pay raise. Compensation issues are recommended by the independent Utah Legislative Compensation Commission and the Legislature can only choose to accept or reject those recommendations.
Dee said the commission has been pushing the new rules and transparency for several years.