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Wash. Senate Panel OKs $30 Per Diem Pay Hike

Washington state senators are giving themselves a pay raise. Senators will get $120 a day in per diem when they are in session – up from the current rate of $90 a day. 

The Senate facilities and operations committee approved the increase  Tuesday in a split vote. 

Washington citizen legislators are paid an annual salary of $42,000. When the Legislature is in session, lawmakers are eligible for a daily allowance to cover expenses. Since 2005, this per diem has been set at $90 a day in the Washington Senate.

Earlier this year, the House approved a $30 increase. Now, the Senate will follow. At a hastily called meeting in the Capitol, Democrat Karen Fraser of Olympia made the case for the per diem hike.

“Some have serious financial problems being able to be here during the session, so therefore I think it’s reasonable that we equal the House," Fraser said.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom of Medina opposed the increase, in part, he said, because teachers and state employees haven’t received a cost of living increase in several years. This per diem raise is expected to cost Washington taxpayers an additional $155,000 next year. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.