In November, many legislative candidates campaigned on cutting costs in the legislature through specific, commonsense reforms. Ending the frequent abuse of per diems and requiring receipts for expenses topped the list, along with ending the leasing of state vehicles, and requiring health care insurance contributions from state representatives (state senators currently contribute 1 percent of their salary). While these reforms are not big-ticket items capable of balancing the budget on their own, they would help trim the costs of the most expensive legislature in the country.
Leaders held a Bipartisan Management Committee meeting, but nothing was decided in the first meeting. The difficulty of convincing elected officials to even submit receipts for travel expenses speaks to the need for broader reforms, like transitioning to a part-time legislature or establishing spending limits. These reforms are unlikely unless citizens have the ability to propose and repeal laws through Initiative & Referendum.
Let’s hope the new legislature achieves and builds on these reforms as a prelude to transparency and accountability in government.