I never thought I'd say, let's cut Mike Parry some slack.
Sen. Parry, whose website says he "owns and manages a marketing and motivation company and his family owns the Godfather's Pizza franchise in Waseca" tells MPR he needs to collect the maximum per diem payment for legislators:
"This is for the session, my job. I have no other job at this point in time," said Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca.
Parry's positions make it hard for me to support him on this. After all, he was elected on promises to cut state government by 15% across the board and to give job creation over to the private sector. He positions himself as a successful business person, and then pleads poverty. A man with his resume should be able to create a job for himself without relying on the public dime.
But I'm also tired of the partisan games that have been played over the per diem issue.
When DFLers took it — even though they were in the majority and running active committees — they took the heat from the GOP and their attack chihuahuas. Now that MNGOP members are taking the max, it's the DFL's turn to point out the hypocrisy.
Michael Brodkorb, who used to specialize in this crap until his state-paid job forced him to adopt a bit of decorum, tweetwhines that MPR hasn't given the MNGOP Senators credit for saving half of the $100,000 they promised to trim for per diems (and Parry RTs him):
Gotta love MPR: Almost 1/2 through '11, Senate has saved $50K in per diem ('09 interim per diem alone was $96k) - Yet, MPR slams GOP
Maybe, Michael, it's because the House spent $77,000 more on daily expenses versus comparable session two years ago, so your caucus is a net drag on the budget.
To be fair, the overall dollars are tiny, and the MNGOP has more people in the House and in the Senate, a slim majority of their members taking the max per diem are from outstate, compared to most of the DFL being from the Twin Cities metro.
That should show that this isn't a matter of parties.
Parry's point, if I may pose it better than he did, might be that outstate legislators and those who don't have flexible jobs or big incomes should be able to serve in the legislature without taking a big hit to family finances.
And legislators — like other state workers — ought to get paid fairly for their work, without a lot of sniping about whether it's deserved when costs go up.
Increasing pay is not a bad idea, but it's tough for legislators to vote to increase their own pay. That reason, plus the disparities in cost of living between a St. Paul legislator and one from Waseca, justify the per diem as a current workaround.
If Parry is willing to say all state workers — including legislators — should be paid fairly for the work they do, I'm on his side. If he says the citizen legislature ought to include regular folks as well as business owners, insurance agents and financial planners, I'm with him.
But if he thinks state budgets can be cut arbitrarily, while the legislature should be paid more because it's a special case, he's lost me. And if he insists families don't try to balance their budgets by seeking more income, then he has no credibility on any tax question from now on.