Lawmakers won't answer questions about their pay raise - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers won't answer questions about their pay raise


MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's legislators avoided our reporters and cameras on Tuesday as we tried to ask questions about their upcoming 2009 pay raise.

While almost every industry is cutting jobs and freezing salaries, Wisconsin's representatives and senators are getting a 5.3% raise in the new year.

Total salary for officeholders beginning a new term will be almost $50,000.  That's one of the highest salaries in the country for state legislatures.

But no lawmakers in the Capitol building would agree to talk about their raise on camera.

The Joint Committee on Employment Relations approved the raise in November 2007.  None of the lawmakers in the general body actually voted on it. 

Joint Committee co-chairs Rep. Mike Huebsch and Sen. Fred Risser could lower or cancel the raise if they wanted to by convening the committee, according to Yer Vang with the state Department of Administration. 

Neither Huebsch nor Risser returned repeated phone calls and office visits.  Aides said the men were either out of the office or not available for comment.

27 News reporter Dan Cassuto also stopped by the office of incoming speaker Mike Sheridan.  An aide at the front desk said Sheridan was in the building in a meeting, but she would not say where, what the meeting was about, or when he would be available.

Several hours later, Sheridan's office issued a statement via email to 27 News.  The email read: "For close to ten years, legislators' salaries have increased a modest 1.9% yearly, keeping their wages well below the base pay of other full-time legislatures.  Such an increase is well below inflationary rates." 

Senator Russ Decker's office also sent a statement emphasizing what he considers the low nature of legislature pay.

Even though aides stressed they would, Huebsch, Risser, and Sheridan never returned our phone calls.

Meanwhile, viewers are contacting 27 News with angry feedback.

Dolores wrote in an email saying, "Lawmakers should get their heads out of the sand."

John from Madison called to say he thinks the situation should be "illegal."

You can send your comments to Dan Cassuto at

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