STATE SENATE DEMS SAY THEY WILL TURN BACK PART OF THEIR BUDGET

State Senate Democrats say they plan to turn back to the general fund a percentage of their legislative budget. Spokesman Derek Slap said last year, the caucus returned 15% of its budget to the general fund and hopes to do the same at the end of this fiscal year.

Slap’s comments came in response to a story in yesterday’s The Hanging Shad that said the Senate Democratic Office (SDO) has added to its staff even though the state faces an historic budget deficit of almost $4 billion in 2012.

On June 28th, David Baird started working for the SDO in the newly created position of “outreach coordinator.” The new position carries a yearly salary of $52,500. The Shad observed that it is a politically risky move to create a new position while jobs in the private sector dwindle and the state faces that gigantic budget deficit. The SDO is the only caucus in the legislature to add a position to its payroll, according to the Office of Legislative Management.

It’s further curious that a new position would be created in the SDO’s office of constituent services. The Shad knows first-hand (as a former communications director for SDO) that “constituent services” is responsible for keeping voters happy with their senator and in a broader, practical sense, getting them re-elected—but don’t expect to find that on any job description.

It’s important to note that the SDO is still operating within its budget, even with the new position. Whether to spend their allotted money or turn it back to the general fund is the leaders’ decision. It should also be noted that the SDO, at least in my experience, has been meticulous in technically separating campaign work from caucus work.