Compensation for state lawmakers? I vote yes!

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Heath Haussaman today detailed the recommendations of a state ethics task force, and one of the recommendations would change the state constitution to allow compensation for lawmakers:

The task force’s members agreed that the New Mexico Constitution should be changed to give lawmakers some sort of compensation, whether it be a salary or reimbursement of expenses or some combination, but only if the law is also changed to ban the use of campaign funds for anything other than campaigning, the Associated Press reported.

House and Senate members currently get per diem and mileage reimbursements. That would not change under the proposal.

Garrey Carruthers, co-chair of the task force, said it’s time for New Mexico to “grow up as a state” and compensate lawmakers.

“We’re trying to run a multi-billion-dollar business with free labor,” Carruthers told the news service. “I wouldn’t run a business that way.”

Carruthers may have a point, but I learned something on Monday and Tuesday: our legislators are some smart cookies. Representatives and senators on the Health and Human Services Committee continually impressed me regarding their knowledge of issues, and their questions were sharp and well considered. We’re already getting some good bang for the buck, but I won’t stand in the way of compensation. If anything, the last two days reinforced for me the idea that they should be paid.

Heath also has info on the task force’s other recommendations:

The group opted Tuesday to proceed with three recommendations. In addition to compensation for lawmakers, they include the creation of an independent ethics commission and an appointed state treasurer and auditor…

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