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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Senate Panel Approves $30 Per Diem Increase

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File photo of the Washington Senate chamber

Washington state Senators are giving themselves a pay raise. They will get $120 a day in per diem when they are in session -- up from the current $90 a day.

The Senate Facilities and Operations committee approved the increase Tuesday in a split vote.

Washington citizen legislators are paid an annual salary of $42,000. When the legislature is in session, lawmakers are eligible for a daily allowance to cover expenses. Since 2005, this per diem has been set at $90 a day in the Washington Senate.

Earlier this year the House approved a $30 increase. Now the Senate will follow. At a hastily called meeting in the Capitol, Democrat Karen Fraser made the case for the per diem hike.

“Some have serious financial problems being able to be here during the session, so therefore I think it’s reasonable that we equal the House.”

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom opposed the increase in part, he said, because teachers and state employees haven’t received a cost of living increase in several years.

This per diem raise is expected to cost Washington taxpayers an additional $155,000 next year.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."