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Yes, Oregon Republican lawmakers still get paid during the walkout

Oregon lawmakers' salaries are set by state statute and not tied to attendance — although Democrats have begun seeking to hit Republicans with commensurate fines.
Credit: KGW

SALEM, Ore. — KGW viewer Linda in Sherwood asks: Are Oregon Senate Republicans being paid during their walkout? It's a question that several KGW viewers have asked over the past month amid the latest Republican boycott in Salem.

The current Republican walkout is chiefly aimed at blocking a bill that would increase protections for abortion and gender-affirming care. Democrats hold 17 of the chamber's 30 seats, but a quorum of at least 20 senators must be present to conduct business. With most Republicans gone, no votes on legislation can be held.

Most people with hourly jobs have no leeway for unexcused absences; if you don't clock in, you don't get paid. And even salaried employees would presumably find their paychecks halted pretty quickly if they simply stopped showing up for work. But does the same go for elected legislators?


Do Oregon lawmakers continue to get paid during legislative walkouts?



This is true.

Yes, all legislators are still being paid during the walkout. Salaries for Oregon's elected senators and representatives are set by state statute and there are no exceptions for unexcused absences.

However, Senate Democrats voted on June 1 to begin charging the absent Republicans a daily fine that would essentially cancel out the value of their salaries.


KGW's The Story team tackled this question last week and got a clear answer from the Oregon Legislative Administration office: salaries for Oregon senators and representatives are set by a state statute that does not tie their payment to attendance.

It could be argued that Measure 113 impacts salaries in a roundabout way; at least 10 senators are now ineligible to hold office after their current terms end, so if they were hoping to win reelection and continue drawing those salaries, they'll have to make other plans — although some Republicans have said they plan to challenge Measure 113 in court.

But as far as the current session goes, there's been no interruption in pay for the missing Republicans, and no interruption for Democrats either. Senate President Rob Wagner even confirmed during a June 1 Senate speech that paychecks had gone out that day for the previous month of work.

However, that speech came after a notable development: Sen. Kate Lieber asked the senate to hit the absent members with a $325 fine for each day that they remain absent, and the senators in attendance voted 16-2 in favor of her suggestion. Wagner said the fines will start June 5.

Lieber and Wagner both cited Article 4, Section 12 of the Oregon Constitution, which sets the 20-member quorum rule but adds that missing lawmakers who are preventing a quorum "shall be entitled to no compensation... until an organization shall have been effected."

The threat of fines has been raised before; former Senate President Peter Courtney threatened to impose $500 daily files during a prior Republican walkout in 2019. 

The choice of $325 fines this time around appears designed to exactly cancel out the value of the Republicans' salaries. The Story reported earlier this week that total lawmaker pay breaks down to about $325 per day during the walkout.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the base salary for Oregon lawmakers in 2022 was $33,853, and there's also a per diem allowance of $151 per day while the legislature is in session.

The per diem payment is also set by state statute and is still being paid during the walkout. The per diem can boost a lawmaker's overall earnings by about $5,000 during short session years and by about $24,000 during long session years, The Story reported last year

Got a question or a story about Portland or Oregon that you'd like us to VERIFY? Drop us a line at verify@kgw.com.

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