Rep. Leon Young figures the Wisconsin Legislature already works just part-time. So maybe it should get paid that way.
Earlier this week, Young, D-Milwaukee, floated the idea of a constitutional amendment calling for lawmakers to meet just the first three months of the year and cut their pay by 75 percent — to $12,000 a year from the current $49,943.
"After reviewing the number of days that we were in session during the course of the 2011-12 biennium, I realized that we met a total of only 34 days out of a possible 122 session days," Young said. "It is fair to say that we actually function as a 'de facto' part-time legislature now."
When you look only at the number of session days in 2012, Young said, the number drops to seven. "Who works seven days and gets paid for a whole year?" he asked.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wisconsin is among 10 states where the salaries are highest, there are large staffs and "legislators are paid enough to make a living without requiring outside income."
A similar proposal to cut the pay and budget of the Milwaukee County Board has been introduced and is gaining support among some Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature. That measure, being floated by state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, would allow voters to decide whether to cut supervisors' pay to $15,000 a year from the current $51,000, eliminate health and pension benefits and make deep cuts in the board's $6.5 million annual budget.
It will be interesting to see whether lawmakers view a part-time Legislature with the same enthusiasm as a part-time Milwaukee County Board.
Young said he's gotten a "couple of calls" from fellow lawmakers in recent days, "some in support; some not too happy, actually."
Rough times for Democracy Campaign
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, one of the state's strongest voices for government transparency, has hit a rough patch.
Over the holidays, the Madison-based group was informed it would soon lose funding from the Joyce Foundation, which had supported the nonprofit for 16 years.
Executive Director Mike McCabe said he is working to generate new sources of revenue to replace the $232,000 in lost Joyce funding. The Democracy Campaign's annual budget is $430,000 a year.
McCabe said his highest priority is maintaining the group's searchable database that tracks donations to state candidates and associated research — which costs roughly $130,000 a year.
"We want to at least maintain our tracking program and searchable database and maintain the capacity to do research and analysis to connect the dots between all that (campaign) money and the votes at the Capitol," McCabe said.
Some speculate that McCabe's often pointed critique of officials has generated more enemies than friends for the Democracy Campaign.
"I make no apologies for advocating for a system that values people over money," he said. "I am bound and determined to keep this going."
If he fails, McCabe said, "There will probably be some Capitol insiders that would be very happy."