Delegate Sam Nixon (R-Chesterfield) sent a letter to the Democrat leadership in the Virginia State Senate to ask they adapt cost cutting measures that the Republican House leadership have already instituted.
In his letter to Senators Saslaw and Whipple Nixon outlined two specific measures that the House adopted last year and asked that the Senate consider doing the same:
- Matching the House members’ 2% salary reduction, in effect since 1991: As best we can determine, senators and delegates were paid the same salary until May 1, 1991. Although the House reduced the salaries of members through the Appropriations Act by 2% in 1991, the Senate chose not to adjust their annual salaries through the state budget and it is my understanding that individual senators had the option of voluntarily reducing their salaries by 2% for one year. The House has retained this lower salary level of $17, 640 for nearly 18 years (at a cumulative savings to taxpayers of $630,000). With the Commonwealth facing its second ten-figure budgetary shortfall this decade, now appears to us an ideal time to standardize the salaries for state legislators.
- Matching the House session daily expense (per diem) rate of $135: Foreseeing leaner times last year, the House set its per diem rate at $135, which is far lower than the maximum allowed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. By lowering the Senate per diem rate by $34 (from its 2008 level of $169 to $135), the Commonwealth would save over $100,000 this year alone. Obviously, expenses incurred during session are no different for House personnel than for our friends in the Senate. Both senators and delegates encounter the same hotel rates, the same food costs, and thesame incidental expenses. Therefore, a differentiation between these rates based on legislative body makes little sense, especially during this recession in which those we serve and represent are struggling to pay their household expenses.
The House of Delegates has adapted additonal cost savings measures this year that include:
- Member Salary: Maintain current salary level at $17,640 annually. Prior to 1991, delegates andsenators were paid $18,000 annually. In May 1991, delegates agreed to reduce House members’ salary by 2% to its current level. That reduction has saved the Commonwealth a total of $630,000 over the past 17 years.
- Member and Legislative Assistant Session Expenses: Forego without session expense (per diems) increase allowed by federal IRS guidelines. The current rate of $135 will remain in effect.
- Member and Legislative Assistant Orientation: Cancel legislative assistant orientation program for 2009 session. Postpone Committee Chair Training for members until after 2009 elections.
- State Plane: Suspend use of the State Plane for weekend travel home by members who live in Southwest Virginia.
- Conference Travel: Dramatically reduce the number of members and staff who are reimbursed
for attending regional and national legislative conferences.
- Study Committees: Eliminate the use of study committees during the interim to study certain legislation.
- Carry Over Legislation: Cancel meetings for the express purpose of considering carryover legislation.
- Session Support Staff: Eliminate more than a half dozen support positions and reduce hours for additional four positions. Reduce hours for secretarial support staff. Postpone any wage rate increase for session support staff. Reduce training for various support staff.
- Clerk’s Full-time Staff: Freeze hiring for any and all vacancies. Eliminate any discretionary personnel costs. Create job sharing opportunities for full-time staff to cover eliminated session staff job duties.
- Printing of Stationery & Publications: Reduce costs by 15% by modifying internal procurement practices for printing. Review publications for necessity and print as many in-house as possible.
- Discretionary Projects: Postpone all discretionary projects, to include the legislative assistant e-mail initiative and renovation of office space to committee room space in the General Assembly Building.
- Office Supplies: Reduce office supply costs by 15% through the use of stringent purchasing policies.