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Our View: Pay hike a case of bad timing for our Legislature

Wisconsin legislators received a 5.3 percent pay raise when the new year started.

It's quite a generous hike, considering that the state is facing the biggest budget deficit in history.

To be fair, the bump in pay was approved two years ago when economic times were brighter. The increase mirrored the raise given to other state employees at that time.

So it's not like senators and representatives ignored the trouble around them and voted themselves more money in 2008.

Still, news of the pay hike is a serious case of bad timing.

The members of the House and Senate in Madison are asking other branches of state government to trim their budgets as a result of declining tax revenues. Businesses across the state are also cutting back, limiting pay hikes and in some cases cutting their overall payroll.

Question is, how can our elected officials not expect to share in the pain?

Nobody feels too bad for our senators and representatives. Their job is classified as a part-time position (although it's no 40-hour-per week post during the heat of a session).

They each get paid $47,413, plus they can draw $88 per day in expense money while serving at the capitol in Madison. They are among the highest paid citizen legislatures in the nation.

These elected officials are not getting rich, but it's a decent chunk of change compared to what most people bring home.

A couple legislators understand how bad the whole situation looks to their constituents. They've pledged to reject their individual pay hike.

One pledged to donate the extra money to charity.

It would make sense for more to do the same.

No one will argue that legislators work hard for their money. They are always "on call" when constituents want to talk about problems or voice their opinions. They have to sit in endless meetings and try to understand complex bills that are being proposed. And the decisions they make affect everyone.

But with the state's economy in tough shape right now, it might be an appropriate gesture for our elected officials to voluntarily hold the line on their own pay. It would send the right kind of message: "We're all in this together."