Letters to the Editor

Letter: Legislator pay perspective

Don’t get me wrong, I support a legislative pay raise and I certainly wanted one when I was a legislator. But I feel compelled to counter the narrative I’ve been hearing lately that the current pay is not sufficient to entice legislators with young families to come to Juneau. As a legislator who had a young family, I find this untrue. The salary of $50,000 per year, although not great is what a beginning teacher makes, and although it isn’t high, it isn’t low for a job that is only full-time for four months per year. The job also includes full medical benefits and a pension plan, another draw for a young family.

The tax-free per diem of $300 per day while in Juneau is much more than adequate. Many of us paid around $1,500 per month in rent; some even had roommates, which made it lower. A few rented bigger houses, some owned condos and one even lived on a boat he owned. Between restaurants, cooking at home, eating in the legislative lounge and the various dinners and receptions we attended, food totaled around another $1,500 per month. Altogether, that leaves about $6,000 per month of untaxed income to send home, making the salary closer to $80,000 per year. Again, not big money, but remember that a legislator can also have an additional job during the interim. Many of my colleagues owned their businesses, gold mines or fishing boats that they worked at during the offseason. Some had jobs, such as working for labor unions, law firms, Native corporations and, yes, even oil companies. One former colleague even drove an Uber.

I appreciate the desire to have young legislators and the perspective they bring working in Juneau, but we are a citizen Legislature, and that means having a full spectrum. I find no problem with retired teachers, school principals, bankers, fishermen, laborers, nurses, professors, lawyers and others being in the Legislature for they bring knowledge and experience that a younger legislator may not have. It’s a great pathway for a young legislative staffer, who then becomes a legislator to represent their district, but it’s also great to have someone who’s taught in the schools or issued loans for 30 years. If the pay gets too high, we could become a full-time professional Legislature like California and New York, with career legislators who never want to leave. Is this what we want? I like the citizens in our Legislature.

— Adam Wool

Former legislator


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