Kagen donating pay raise to clinics: Democrat’s $4,700 increase will help local health care
By: Ellyn Ferguson
Green Bay Press Gazette
January 8, 2009
WASHINGTON — Congress is getting a $4,700 automatic pay raise this year, but Rep. Steve Kagen says he is giving his to two medical clinics that provide free health care to low-income people.
The N.E.W. Community Clinic in Green Bay and Fox Cities Community Health Center in Menasha will get a little over $2,300 each, the Appleton Democrat said Wednesday.
"The people who need their services are those who have fallen through the cracks. People who don’t have insurance at work. People who can’t afford health insurance. People who can’t afford their medical prescriptions," Kagen said.
In 2007 and 2008, Kagen sent his pay raises to the general treasury for deficit reduction.
This year Kagen, a wealthy physician, decided to donate to the clinics because demand at the clinics is likely to be up because of the deepening recession.
Kagen is not the only Wisconsin delegation member who returns congressional pay increases.
Sen. Herb Kohl returns to the U.S. Treasury anything that exceeds the $89,500 salary in place when he was elected in 1989. Sen. Russ Feingold also returns anything above the $162,100 salary in place when he began his third term in 2005.
The recent pay raise boosts the average House and Senate member’s annual salary from $169,300 to $174,000. That’s a 2.8 percent increase.
Kagen is among 57 co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., that would require lawmakers to vote on future pay raises in order for them to take effect. Under current rules, a cost-of-living increase takes effect without a vote.
This is the third year Mitchell has introduced the bill, which never has received a vote on the House floor.
"We should be tightening our belts along with the men and women we represent. Americans are suffering and instead of feeling that pain, Congress is quietly approving pay raises to further insulate us from it," Mitchell said when he filed the bill Tuesday.
Mitchell said he plans to donate his pay raise to a charity.
Kagen stopped short of saying other lawmakers should return or donate the money.
"I can’t make a guess as to what other members of Congress are going to be doing. They may have a different personal family life situation than I do," he said.
But he said members of Congress should have to vote on raising their pay.
"I don’t think it should be an automatic pay increase in a time of severe economic dysfunction," he said.