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Rep. Mulvaney-Stanak Comments on the Financial Burden of Being a Legislator

From "Vermont Lawmakers Are Preparing to Double Their Salaries" by Kevin McCallum, Seven Days, March 21, 2023.

Following a historic level of turnover in the Vermont legislature last year, lawmakers are considering giving themselves a big raise next biennium. Under a bill advancing in the Senate, Vermont's 180 lawmakers, who currently make $14,610 per year, would earn just under $30,000. Lawmakers would also become eligible for medical benefits. Those who favor the proposal say they want to bring lawmakers' compensation up to the state average. Several lawmakers testified in favor, arguing that the changes are overdue and crucial to ensuring that the legislature isn't made up only of people who can afford to serve. Rep. Ashley Bartley (R-Fairfax) testified she lost her job as a human resources manager at a South Burlington property management company due to the challenges of juggling work and her service in Montpelier. “We couldn’t and can’t survive on one income. It’s not possible,” she testified of her young family. “Vermont working families deserve a voice here in these walls,” she added. Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P/D-Burlington) teared up as she described the challenges of being a mom of two young kids, a consultant and a lawmaker. She estimated the increased childcare costs she and wife bear due to her service in Montpelier at more than $7,000 per year, nearly half her salary. “I’m bringing nothing home to help my household. If anything, I’m paying out of pocket,” she said. "We are truly resetting the compensation package," Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) told Seven Days. She noted that the last time lawmakers revised their own pay was 20 years ago. The bill, S.39, last week won unanimous approval in the Senate Government Operations Committee, which Hardy chairs, and this week heads to the pivotal Appropriations Committee. The salary boost comes in two chunks. The first would be an increase in the weekly pay of lawmakers during the typical 18-week session, from $811 to $1,210 beginning in 2025. Further, it would mean that lawmakers would, after the session, earn a day's pay each week for meetings, calls, emails and contacts with constituents. Lawmakers currently only have access to dental benefits. But the bill, for the first time, would give them access to the same medical benefits that state workers enjoy. Lawmakers would need to pay the same amount for those benefits as do members of the executive branch. Finally, the bill calls for reimbursement of up to $1,600 per year for childcare or other dependent care needed to allow the person to serve. Reimbursement would be for households making $75,000 or less. The bill would also create a six-member legislative working group to examine other issues related to legislative service, such as whether the legislature should meet year-round or boost staff to assist lawmakers.

The total cost of the bill is still being calculated by the Joint Fiscal Office, but the salary component alone would exceed $2.7 million.

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