I-Team: Inside look at state rep. salaries - WNEM TV 5

I-Team: Inside look at state rep. salaries

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

When talking about etiquette a rule of thumb is to never discuss how much money someone makes.

However, when it comes to government employees who are paid with your tax dollars you often wonder how much they make.

The I-Team uncovered a list that shows how much state house representatives and all their staffers make every year. For most people this information would be an invasion of privacy, but for these workers it's an insight into where your tax money goes.

"I think the more this information gets out, the more people can start asking questions," said Josefina Federspiel, Mid-Michigan resident.

Most state elected representatives earn $71,000. Legislative aides earn as low as $30,000 a year to $60,000. Some of the highest paid staffers earn well over six figures.

The I-Team printed off the list from the House of Representatives website and shows the information to people at a local restaurant. Most of them were shocked to see the information so readily available.

"I don't know why this guy makes this much, but that's double what this guy makes. Why is that," said Steve Slosser, resident.

The list isn't a new thing, but it has been missing from the state house website for some time. It was brought back as part of a larger package of bills aimed to increase transparency in the state government.

"There was a study released that we were ranked dead last in the nation as far as transparency," said State Rep. Vanessa Guerra, (D-Saginaw).

The study was conducted by the Center for Public Inquiry. It gave Michigan a F in the terms of state government transparency.

"So I think that coupled with the Flint water crisis and the call for more government transparency there really pushed the legislature to really create some legislation that would bring more transparency," Guerra said.

The bills include an increase in the ability to file Freedom of Information Act requests for the state legislature, as well as the governor's office.

As far as the list of salaries go, many of the state representatives are just fine knowing the public has access to it.

"Well, people ask. They wanna know. A lot of people think we make six figures and have limousines and have all these great packages, which we don't," said State Rep. Joseph Graves, (R-Argentine Township).

Graves was a sponsor of the bills. He believes the representatives and staffers are paid fairly for the amount of work they do in Lansing.

"I think most people would be surprised how little they do make. No one will say, 'wow, they're overpaid.' They see the hours they put in and the work they do," Graves said.

TV5 reached out to several of the higher paid staffers, but they were not able to give their opinion about how they feel having their salaries known to the public. However, many of the representatives said they shouldn't be ashamed because they have worked hard to earn that salary.

"I'm sure they're thrilled with it, but at the same time they kind of understand that's the role of public employees," Graves said.

The I-Team wanted to know what makes up for the wide range of salaries. State Rep. Phil Phelps, of Flint, said it all comes down to which office the staffer works for.

"Our salaries legislatively are set. So we can't get raises, so ours are constitutionally set. But each individual office gets to set their individual staff salary based on a maximum that they can pay for their entire office budget. So I think it's just fair for people to see that," Phelps said.

The list only covers the State House of Representatives. The Senate does not have a similar list.

Guerra said the package of transparency bills could reach the Senate and governor's office shortly.

"It makes you wonder and it makes you think a little more about what's going on behind the scenes," Federspiel said.

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