John Proos: Part-time legislature is common sense solution that could save taxpayers millionsPublished 4:57pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013
By State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph
Michigan is one of only ten states with some sort of a full-time legislature and one of only four states with a truly full-time legislative session.
I believe having Michigan join the other 40 states with a part-time legislature is a step in the right direction by helping to save taxpayer dollars and shrink the overall size of government.
That is why I recently introduced a proposal in the Senate that would let voters decide whether the legislature should become part-time, working no more than 90 days per year.
It is not fair to ask everyone else to do the same, or more, with less and not have the legislature look at saving money by going part-time.
Michigan currently has 147 state lawmakers with one vacancy to be filled in November, and legislators make an average of $72,600 a year – for a total of $10.7 million annually.
By comparison, Indiana has had a part-time legislature since the 1800s and legislators there are paid less than $23,000 per year with a $152 per diem for each session day.
So if Michigan changed to a part-time legislature, we could potentially save state taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
In recent history, the Michigan Legislature has averaged 110 days a year in session, but I know we can get our work done in much less time. In 2012, we accomplished much to help protect our communities and improve our economy while only meeting for 81 session days.
There is a difference of opinion statewide and among my colleagues about the benefits of going to a part-time legislature compared with having lawmakers working full-time to meet the needs of the state and their constituents.
I know that it would probably be a challenge to effectively balance the duties as your senator and the workload of a separate career. But if lawmakers in most other states have managed to do it, I know that we could do it here.
I sponsored this reform because it makes good common sense. We’re looking for savings and solutions to problems on a daily basis, and this will save the state millions of dollars while maintaining support for key priorities.
Importantly, my proposal would give the people the ability to decide for themselves what sort of representation they want in their state government.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien and Cass counties and most of Van Buren County.