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Editorial: Hoffman, Murdock should not be paid during shutdown

With the Minnesota state government shutdown extended into its second week, and with no real sign of a budget deal on the horizon, news has become increasingly grim.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the shutdown could cost our state's economy about $23 million a week in public and private spending. On top of that, the state's debt was downgraded last week by Fitsch Ratings from AAA to AA+.

Amidst all of this, 138 of 200 of Minnesota's legislators are receiving pay. Among those 138 are local politicians Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, and Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Ottertail.

Gov. Dayton, whose annual pay is $120,303, has asked not to be paid during the shutdown.

A legislator's pay amounts to $30,140 annually. They are paid year-round, even during the summer months when there is no political activity.

This summer, though, is an exception. With thousands of Minnesotans out of work, hundreds of thousands of others affected and animosity towards state politicians likely at an all-time high, legislators that continue to receive pay only add to the public's negative perception.

Reached by phone, Murdock said he would continue to collect his paycheck because he did his job during the regular session, and he continues to do his job in the summer (he attended both the Perham and Dent parades, among others in the area).

"My opinion is we got the job done before the session ended," Murdock said. "We did what we were supposed to do. It's the governor who doesn't like the budget."

Hoffman said that she is collecting her paycheck because it reflects the many hours of work she put in during the regular session. In addition, she said that she has waived her health insurance, saving money for the state, and donates 25 percent of her salary to charity.

Arguably, the legislators did not, in fact, do their job during the regular session. If they had, the state would not be in the position it is now. It is wrong that Democrats and Republicans should collect paychecks as Minnesotans suffer because those politicians are unable to agree or to admit fault.

While Hoffman or Murdock can't do much themselves in terms of negotiations, choosing to not receive pay during the shutdown would indicate to their constituency that they really do understand the gravity of the situation. Going without a paycheck would show the state that legislators recognize with the difficulties many Minnesotans are going through.

That, if nothing else, would be a small step in the right direction.