A Texas state representative is asking campaign donors to help pay his legislative staffers.
Gov. Greg Abbott defunded the legislature after Democrats fled the state to prevent restrictive voting laws from passing.
Unlike staffers’ salaries, state legislator pay is enshrined in the constitution. Staffers will lose their salary on September 1 without legislative action.
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A Republican state legislator in Texas asked his donor base to help pay his legislative staffers and other personnel after Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the legislature’s pay in the biennial budget passed in June.
Rep. Dan Huberty said in a campaign letter to previous donors that “more than 2100 employees will no longer receive a paycheck” after Abbott’s decision and that donations to Huberty would help compensate his team “as they will continue to do their jobs.”
The message was first reported on Twitter by Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek.
While Abbott’s veto applies to the entire legislature, lawmakers’ pay is enshrined in the state constitution, which states that “Members of the Legislature shall receive from the Public Treasury a salary of Six Hundred Dollars per Month.”
Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives staged a walkout in May to prevent restrictive voting laws from passing before the legislative session’s deadline. Soon after, Abbott tweeted that he would veto the legislative branch’s funding, noting “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.”
The state constitution also dictates the legislators must receive a per diem pay for every day they serve when called for a special session, so they would still likely get paid regardless of the state budget. The salaries of legislative staffers, bill drafters, and administrative personnel are not included in the constitution and therefore are subject to Abbott’s veto.
The new budget does not go into effect until September 1, leaving less than one month to again fund the legislature. Democratic House members broke quorum and traveled to Washington DC to persuade Congress to institute voting regulations and to prevent the state legislature from passing restrictive voting bills. The state budget cannot be changed until enough Democratic representatives return to restore a quorum to allow the budget to be amended.
Republicans and Democrats alike have spoken out against the governor’s decision to defund the legislature. Republican and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dade Phelan, told the Texas Tribune that he’s most worried about staff pay.
“I understand the frustration the governor has in not passing those emergency items – they were priorities of the governor, they were priorities of mine, priorities of many members of the Legislature,” Phelan said. “My only concern is how it impacts staff, especially those who live here in Austin, which is not an inexpensive place to live and raise your family and children.”
Texas Democrats petitioned the state Supreme Court in June to overturn Abbott’s decision, alleging that the decision was unconstitutional for multiple reasons.
Rep. Huberty’s campaign and legislative offices didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
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