Legislative Raise Out Of Committee

A bill that would increase daily allowances for lawmakers who live outside the Denver metropolitan area made it though the Senate Appropriations committee today.

The measure would increase the per diem allowance from $99 to $149 with an estimated cost around $590,000 in the next two years. It’s being carried by Sen. Jack Taylor, a rural Republican from Steamboat Springs, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Democrat from Gunnison.

The issue was raised amid concerns that rural lawmakers were not making enough to keep up with daily responsibilities:

Lawmakers’ per diem has not been increased since 1989, but gas, lodging and other costs – including the price of a car – have risen, legislators point out.

And while Colorado’s regular legislative session lasts only four months, many lawmakers say the job has, in fact, become full time.

“I have some place to go nearly every day on the weekends or in the off-session,” said Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, whose district is the third-largest in the state. “I’m the only senator these nine counties have, and people there expect me to meet with them.”

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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