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Lawmaker's wrong needs correcting

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Unlike most Minnesotans, members of the Minnesota Senate and House have the ability to give themselves a raise. There are limits, of course, and when they decided last year to raise their per diem expense reimbursements, lawmakers tripped over the spirit, if not the fact, of the law that regulates how and when legislative pay increases can take place.

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Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that lawmakers had acted properly in granting themselves a per diem increase to $96 in the Senate and $77 in the House. State law says that legislative pay increases cannot take place during the same term the elected officials hold office. When a citizens group sued, saying that the state law had been broken, lawmakers argued in court that per diems are not pay. The Court of Appeals agreed.

We were glad to hear that the group Citizens for the Rule of Law plans to pursue the case to the state Supreme Court. It may be, as the appellate court said, that per diem is technically not pay.

But in the eyes of many, a $77 per day or $96 per day reimbursement comes awfully close to being compensation for work performed.

It's a very narrow line, and we have been puzzled for some time as to why lawmakers chose not to stick clearly to the right side of it.

We hope that the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's ruling. We don't object to lawmakers getting fair pay and expense reimbursement. We do think that the spirit of Minnesota's law says that such increases have to bear the scrutiny of voters before taking effect, and we think lawmakers should be held tightly to that standard. -- Fergus Falls Daily Journal

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