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Oregon lawmakers consider raising their pay 63 percent to increase diversity

Oregon lawmakers consider raising their pay 63 percent to increase diversity
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Lawmakers in Oregon are considering raising their annual salaries by roughly $20,000 in hopes of attracting more diverse candidates to the state legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D), one of the state lawmakers behind the pay initiative, told Oregon Public Broadcasting in an interview released on Wednesday that the current pay local lawmakers are receiving is not enough to create a more diverse state legislature.

“We’re a diverse state, we need a diverse legislature,” said Burdick. “Because of the low pay, we are automatically screening out people who really should be represented here.”

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“Trying to recruit someone of caliber to serve in these chambers with the pay that we’re getting currently just is a very difficult choice,” state Sen. Fred Girod (R), another legislator behind the effort, told the news outlet.

“I’m a retired dentist, and I’ve done well in life, but when you go to tell someone, ‘We want you to serve, but your base pay is going to be around $2,000 a month,’ that’s pretty tough sledding,” he continued.

To change that, Burdick and three other state senators are floating legislation that would boost annual lawmaker pay by roughly $20,000 if passed.

The effort comes just weeks after legislators in the state received a 28 percent raise, according to The Associated Press. However, that pay increase was reportedly granted under past collective bargaining agreements that impacted roughly 40,000 state employees.

Currently, Oregon lawmakers earn an annual salary of $31,200, in addition to another $149 per day during the legislative session.

According to the AP, the recent pay raise will cost the state more than $1.6 million every two years.

It’s unclear whether Oregon, where local leaders have reportedly called for spending cuts across almost all state programs, is able to afford the pay increase floated in Burdick’s bill, the news agency notes.

However, Burdick remains undeterred and says her plan is necessary for the state to create a more diversified legislature.

"This is not a get-rich-quick scheme down here," Burdick said. "This is public service. But if it gets to the point where you can't feed your family, that's where the problem is."