February 19 • 06:13 AM

The bottom line

Salaries for lawmakers, staffers again made public

State Rep. Gary Howell, of North Branch, was chosen as the one of the legislative escorts leading the Michigan Supreme Court justices to the House floor during last month's State of the State address. To Howell's left is Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake.

February 08, 2017
TRI-CITY AREA — The public once again has access to specific salary information for state representatives and their staff members.

According to media reports, the House of Representatives had been publishing a list of staffers and their salaries since 2011 but briefly stopped that practice six months ago.

New Speaker of the House Tom Leonard reinstated the practice last month.

Lapeer County's Gary Howell praised the move, characterizing it as "a good initial step toward additional transparency."

In a statement, Howell committed to supporting additional steps to increase that transparency, including legislations that would subject the governor's office to the Freedom of Information Act and create a similar disclosure procedure for the House and Senate called the Legislative Open Records Act. The act calls for letting residents request public records from the governor and Legislature.

"These were the first bills I supported after I was sworn in to office last session," Howell said.

"They were approved by the House, but the Senate failed to act on them. I will work to introduce the bills this session because I think it's important that people have access to information about how their state government works."

Additionally, Howell said he will vote against a bill that calls for ending public notice postings in newspapers, instead only requiring local governments to post such information on their government websites.

"This would be a step in the wrong direction if we are going to make government more accountable to the public," Howell said.

"We made a promise to be more transparent, and limiting public access to important information about local government would be going back on that promise."

The salary database information is available at

• • • • •

So what does the salary database show? Here are some number with local significance—

•Howell, a first-term representative, earns $71,685 per year. Michael Goschka, Howell's legislative director, earns a $59,619 paycheck.

•Dan Lauwers, a third-term legislator who represents a portion of St. Clair County in the 81st District, earns $82,485

•paid interns earn less than $10,000; legislative aides earn between $28,000 and $60,000 and a handful of administrative staff earn six figures.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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