Three members of Colorado's House who have moved to, or about to move to, the Senate are going to pay a stiff price for that decision.
In 2015, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 88, which raises the base salary of lawmakers and other state officials beginning with the 2019 session. The governor’s pay is going from $90,000 to $123,193. The lieutenant governor, secretary of state and treasurer’s pay will all increase from $68,500 to $93,360; the attorney general’s pay will increase from $80,000 to $107,672.
But, as it turns out, not everyone is getting a bump in pay.
All 65 members of the House, elected in 2018, will receive a higher base salary of $40,242, up from $30,000 that all lawmakers (House and Senate) have been paid since 1999.
But only 17 of the 35 members of the Senate, all elected in 2018, will get the more than $10,000 increase. The other 18 will stay at $30,000 until 2020. Those who are term-limited in 2020 -- Sens. Larry Crowder, Vicki Marble, Owen Hill and Nancy Todd -- will never see the pay increase. The other 14 senators, if re-elected in 2020, will finally see the pay bump in the 2021 session.
Those 18 also include three brand new members of the Senate: former Reps. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village, now-Sen. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins and Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, all recently appointed by vacancy committees to fill the unexpired terms of Sens. Daniel Kagan, John Kefalas and Randy Baumgardner, respectively. Kagan and Baumgardner announced they would resign this month; Kefalas was elected to the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners in November. (Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette, who filled the unexpired term of Sen. Matt Jones, was never up for the new House base salary, as he did not run for re-election to the House in November.)
All four departing senators won election to the Senate in 2016. And therein lies the issue.
It stems from the 2015 legislation that increased lawmaker salaries for the first time since 1999. One line in the bill stated that “all members of the General Assembly elected through the 2016 general election and members appointed to fill vacancies for unexpired terms of those members” shall be paid $30,000 per year.
House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver told Colorado Politics the pay inequity isn’t fair and that lawmakers are already talking about it. Whether anyone will attempt to address it through legislation is another matter. The whole point of making those elected in 2016 subject to a lower base salary had to do with making sure lawmakers weren’t voting themselves pay raises.
Of the 16 members of the Senate who cosponsored the 2015 bill, only two -- Marble of Fort Collins and Baumgardner, who was a prime co-sponsor -- are still in the Senate (Baumgardner’s resignation is official Jan. 21). The others all departed under term limits in the past four years.
In the House, the bill’s two prime co-sponsors were Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon and, in a twist of irony, Rankin, who told Colorado Politics he’s known for some time that he would lose money by going to the Senate. Bridges was unaware that his base salary would drop. "I'm not doing this for the money," Bridges said.
An additional interesting note: If Joyce Rankin, wife of Rep. Rankin and a member of the state Board of Education, is selected by a House District 57 vacancy committee on Feb. 5 to replace her husband, she will receive the higher base salary.