Senators voted Friday to take the first step towards rejecting a $10 increase in their $120-a-day salary, describing the effort as a "symbolic" move intended to show they, too, feel the pain of budget cuts.
But several senators voted against HB2002, which was earlier approved by the House without a dissenting vote. It still needs to be signed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. before the increase, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, can be removed from the budget.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said the move wasn't fair to legislative candidates who may be counting on the extra money if they're elected to serve.
"The money isn't an issue for me," Hillyard said, noting the increase was put in place by an independent commission. He was one of the four votes against the measure.
Sen. Darrin Peterson, R-Nephi, also voted no, warning that "if we keep going down this road," only the independently wealthy will be able to serve.
"Unfortunately, when you take 45 days off to come up here and leave your families and your job behind, it's public service, granted, but it's nice to be able to eat and buy a motel at night," Peterson said.
Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, voted for the bill but said he understood the concern. "Sometimes people don't recognize the sacrifices made by people off the Wasatch Front" who serve in the Legislature, Romero said, suggesting maybe they should be compensated differently.The sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said the pay cut is "symbolic, from a financial point of view." He said it is a "way to communicate to the citizens of Utah that we understand" that the state is in troubled financial times.