Three veteran House Democrats today jointly announcement they will not seek re-election this year in light of the apparent failure of a bill that would have doubled lawmakers’ salaries and provided additional compensation for childcare.
The three state reps, Karin Power, Rachel Prusak and Anna Williams, said they couldn’t afford to work full-time for part-time pay.
“We are a lawyer, nurse practitioner and social worker,” the three said in a statement. “Seeing the challenges families face in our working lives convinced us to run for office knowing that these families deserved to be heard in our state government.
“But while the job of the Oregon legislature was once part-time, it is no longer. Balancing our work, our multi-day jobs, our families and our service has become unsustainable. How much control can we have over power if we earn a base salary of less than $33,000 a year? »
The announcement comes late in the election cycle. The filing deadline for the May primary is March 8 – just a week away – and while each of the three incumbent lawmakers easily won re-election in 2020, Democrats will now have to find replacements to run in districts. newly redesigned.
At a time when the Legislature was already experiencing unusually high turnover, the unexpected departures will further deplete the ranks of Democrats. Each of the three lawmakers chairs an important House committee, a sign that House leaders view them as valuable contributors.
Power (D-Milwaukie), is an environmental lawyer first elected in 2016. She chairs the House Committee on Early Childhood (she is a mother of two young children) and is vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Prusak (D-West Linn), a nurse practitioner first elected in 2018, chairs the House Health Care Committee. Williams (D-Hood River), a social worker also first elected in 2018, chairs the House Human Services Committee.
At issue is Senate Bill 1566, which would have increased legislators’ salaries from the current level of just under $33,000 to about double that amount. (Legislators also receive a per diem of $151 for each day of session.) The Senate Rules Committee passed an amendment last week that would also provide reimbursement of up to $1,000 per month per child of under 13 for six months for odd periods. – numbered years and three months during even years.
Many Democrats in both houses have said lawmakers’ pay is not compatible with the workload they are asked to make and that it is very difficult for young parents and people who have to earn a living to run for office. legislative positions.
The three legislators who announced their retirement today underscored this point.
“Most people can’t even afford to consider this job,” they said. “This service is not what our state deserves. If this system is designed for the financially affluent or retirees, will it ever work for you? Whose interests does this current structure serve?
The legislator’s pay raise, however, apparently died this session. The appearance of lawmakers raising their own pay, a step Republicans and some Democrats opposed, had little appeal for legislative leadership in a year that already looks tough for incumbents.