Rural lawmakers get their raise

Per diem bill signed into law

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Thursday that includes money for increased per diem pay for rural lawmakers.

House Bill 1301 contains the 2012-13 budget for the entire Legislature, including $189,000 to bring the daily reimbursement for rural lawmakers up to $183 from its current $150.

The rate fluctuates each year with the official federal rate, but in 2010 legislators voted to put the raise on hold for two years because of the state’s budget crisis. No one has introduced a similar bill this year to delay the raise.

Legislators make a base salary of $30,000 a year, and they can claim the extra per diem pay for every day of the four-month yearly session. Travel expenses are reimbursed separately.

The bill sailed nearly unnoticed through the House of Representatives in three days, faster than any bill this year.

It slowed down slightly in the Senate after media reports about the raise, but it still was one of the fastest bills to pass this year, taking 26 days from introduction to Hickenlooper’s signature.

All three Southwest Colorado lawmakers – Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango; Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio; and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose – voted for HB 1301.

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