More than three-fourths of all Utahns don't want Congress to get a pay raise this year, but if one is given, they say it should be 10 percent or less. A majority of Utahns do feel that members of Congress should be allowed to take money for speeches, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows
Congress rejected a 51 percent pay raise earlier this year. Utah's two senators and three House members all voted against it.If the raise had taken effect, House and Senate leaders were going to attempt to pass legislation banning honorariums - the practice of taking fees for speaking to various groups, usually industries overseen by the congressional committees upon which the guest speakers sit. Now, honorariums probably won't be banned, Congress-watchers say.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 79 percent of Utahns somewhat or definitely oppose a pay raise for Congress. Of those few who favor a raise, 63 percent said it should be 10 percent or less.
Fifty-three percent somewhat or strongly favor letting members of Congress accept money for making speeches, while 41 percent oppose the practice, Jones found. Utah's congressional delegation is typical. Sen. Orrin Hatch earned $79,926 in honorariums in 1987, the last full year such statistics are available. He kept $31,037, giving the rest to charity. Sen. Jake Garn earned $54,925. He kept $34,900 and gave the rest to charity.
Senators, by Senate rule, can keep up to 40 percent of their $89,500 salaries in honorariums. House members can keep 30 percent of their $89,500 salaries.
Rep. Jim Hansen earned $18,000 in honorariums and kept all of it in 1987. Rep. Wayne Owens earned $16,000 and kept it all, and Rep. Howard Nielson earned $4,500 and kept it.
Critics of the practice call honorariums legalized bribery. Most often those paying for a speech or personal appearance are those who normally try to influence congressional votes.
For example, Hansen earned no honorariums in 1985. After he was named to the Armed Services Committee, however, defense contractors started paying him for speeches. In 1986 Hansen earned $7,510 in honorariums. In 1987 he earned $18,000, mostly from defense contractors.
Garn gets much of his honorariums from financial institutions. He is the ranking minority member of the Senate Banking Committee. Hatch gets much of his from health-related industries. He is the ranking minority member on the Health and Human Services Committee.
Congressmen argue that their votes are never bought, that honorariums are an acceptable way for them to augment their salaries, which may appear great to the average person but don't come close to covering the costs of maintaining a home in Washington, D.C., and a residence in their home district.
Do you favor or oppose a pay raise for those serving in Congress?
Definitely favor raise
Somewhat favor 11%
Makes no difference 1%
Somewhat oppose 15%
Definitely oppose 64%
Don't know 2%
If you favor a raise, what percentage should it be?
1-10 percent 63%
11-25 percent 24%
26-50 percent 9
51-75 percent 1%
Over 75 percent 2%
Don't know 2%
Members of Congress can receive money for speaking to various groups. Do you favor or oppose this practice?
Strongly favor 19%
Somewhat favor 34%
Somewhat oppose 15%
Strongly oppose 26%
Don't know 5%
Sample size: 607; margin of error plus or minus 4%