Thursday, January 8, 2015

Righty GOP Speaker Vos gets right to work on nest feathering

Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker and chief austerity hypocrite Robin Vos wasted no time at the State Capitol setting in motion at the start of the session a higher daily allowance - - already tax-free - - for members who feel the need to stay overnight having overworked themselves in Madison on state business.

Right now the Senate is sticking with the current $88-daily reimbursement opportunity; Madison legislators can claim $44. Details, here.

The Vos welcome inn plan does not call for drug-testing these benefit recipients, but for others, well - - pee in that cup:
Public assistance reforms — including a controversial proposal to drug test people receiving benefits — will get a close review under a new Assembly committee announced Tuesday by Speaker Robin Vos.
Vos, R-Rochester, said the drug tests are one example of the type of ideas the Public Benefit Reform Committee will examine after the Legislative session begins Jan. 5...
“Assembly Republicans … have a large number of entitlement reforms that we’d like to consider this session,” Vos said in a statement. “We need to weed out fraud, waste and abuse to ensure that people who really need temporary assistance are getting it.”
The proposed boost of more than 50% in per diem payments would be offset, it's claimed, by a smaller cut in daily payments for those who do not stay in Madison overnight, and, at the Speaker's discretion, limiting a member to one payment a week.

Easy solution to this plan: go large and book the room, especially during high fund-raiser or Badger football game season.

In addition to the current tax-free, per diem reimbursements that cover work-related travel to Madison, plus meals and lodging, state legislators - - considered part-time on Wisconsin with outside jobs and careers permitted - - of course get taxpayer-paid salaries - - $50,950 annually - -  plus a big goody-bag of full-time benefits.

Like free parking around the State Capitol, free cell phones, and additional mileage reimbursement for driving around their districts.

And, of course, office space, paid staff and an office budget not including staff salaries of about $55,000 annually.

Claims of per diem payments of $5,000-$10,000 a year by legislators are not uncommon.

So with perks, payments and benefits, a legislative seat can be worth $70,000-$75,000 a year. Not bad for a gig in a part-time legislature with multiple recesses.

And the filings for the reimbursements are on an honor system.

Some legislators wok more than others and treat their service as full-time; others hold manage to hold outside jobs in agriculture, medicine, finance, small business and other fields.

Vos owns a wholesale popcorn firm with a reported fifteen employees, a car wash, a real estate rental business - - all in his Burlington home town - - and a retail popcorn produces store in Milwaukee.

Figuring the true worth of a legislative seat is an art. In addition to pay, benefits, perks, status, power and access to campaign donors and machinery, legislators have other opportunities not as easily available to regular citizens.

Walker has appointed former legislators to key, high-paying jobs in state agencies, including the DOR, the DNR, WisDOT and the PSC which then boost the value of the legislators' eventual pensions.

Others, like former State Rep. Scott Suder and State Sen. Neal Kedzie recently left the legislature and signed on with important trade associations. Lobbies for gun, hunting, private school and other special interests are served by ex-legislators.

Ex-legislator David Prosser jumped to the State Supreme Court; Glenn Grothman got promoted from the State Senate to the US Congress. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and plenty of others began their political and government careers in the legislature.

And for those legislators who like the pace and intrigue and taxpayer-paid lunches around the Capitol, a gerrymandered seat upon which incumbent legislators themselves were able to approves is almost a form of tenure.

Voting on the changes to the Vos welcome inn revised reimbursement plan will take place out of public view, maybe even today. 

Open voting is so yesterday, Bucky.

Vos tried this last session but withdrew the plan when it hit the fan.

Reminds me of that secret redistricting mapping the GOP had done in private attorneys' offices when the Legislature got gerrymandered - - another great new Walker-era Wisconsin idea to take to the nation.


CJ said...

I'd like to see the minimum wage raised by 56 percent.

Anonymous said...

The Park and Concourse hotels were already giving them reduced overnight rates that fit in nicely with the $88. This is a warm heaping pile of you know what and they don't even have to produce receipts. Looks like it just makes it more convenient to conduct business under the cover of darkness with special interests and out of the public eye. This is Robin Vos, who passes himself off as the steward of the taxpayer's money, making another deal with the devil!

Anonymous said...

I don't think raising the per diem means that hotels can charge legislators more than the $70 that DOA allows now. DOA sets the rates hotels can charge state employees. This is just money that legislators can pocket.