Shutdown Cash-In: Lawmakers who retroactively claimed salary after spotlight faded

In the run up to the state shutdown this summer, it became a point of pride for House and Senate legislators to declare they would not take their July paychecks. Forty-eight reps and 14 senators joined in solidarity with state workers who were losing their wages.

But now that the shutdown is over and things have cooled off, 18 members of the House of Representatives quietly put in a request to get their money back in full. We have the names, and we called each one to get their explanation for going back on their word.

Some of the reasons may surprise you.


Governor Mark Dayton was the first to declare he'd go without pay, joined shortly thereafter by Senate Majority leader Amy Koch. A slew of declarations from both party sides soon followed.

The senators decided that no one could get their money back once the shutdown ended -- what's done is done. But in the House, representatives were given several options: they could choose to get paid for the days they ended up working after the shutdown ended on July 20. Or, they could just get pocket their entire July paycheck, as if the shutdown had never happened.

The following members chose to take their full pay, retroactively:

Paul Anderson (R)
Joe Atkins (DFL)
Roger Crawford (R)
Denise Dittrich (D)
Steve Drazkowski (R)
Pat Garofalo (R)
Mindy Grieling (DFL)
Sheldon Johnson (DFL)
Phyllis Kahn (DFL)
Carolyn Laine (DFL)
Jenifer Loon (R)
Terry Morrow (DFL)
Joe Mullery (DFL)
Kim Norton (DFL)
Peggy Scott (R)
Linda Slocum (DFL)
Chris Swedzinski (R)


City Pages called each of the members to find out why they changed their minds, and we heard from quite a few. On page 2, check out who talked to us, why they ended up taking the money, and what some of them plan to do with it.

Peggy Scott (R) - "I'm upset, because my intention all along was to not take pay. My understanding was that it was going to be taken out of my September paycheck. My head's about to explode. I'll probably just go down and write a check [to the state]. I know these things get discovered, I'm not stupid. I talked to my husband about it, about could we make it a month without pay. 'Retroactive,' to me, means that you only get paid for the days that you worked."

Joe Mullery (DFL) - "I took pay during that time, and I certainly think I should have. If you're working hard every day, including weekends and July 4 -- I did a lot to help my district. I remember Friday night being here until a quarter of 11, working Saturday, Sunday. I don't see why I wouldn't get paid for that. I assume my constituents want me working, and want me getting paid for it."

Linda Slocum (DFL)- "I took it because [Minnesota] management and budget said we couldn't deduct the number of days we were in shutdown. I figured out my daily rate [of pay], and wrote a check to Cornerstone, which does domestic abuse counseling here in Richfield and Bloomington. It came out to about $1,000. And it hurt. I am a single woman, I'm a teacher so I don't get any teacher income during the summer. Seriously, it hurt. But I figured, one of the things Republicans cut was money for domestic abuse counseling, and I wanted to give the money locally, and I love Cornerstone, they do great work."

Jenifer Loon (R)- "I'm actually not taking the pay, but what I wanted to do was return it to the treasury. I had to take the check, deposit it, and I have to write check. I'm writing the chuck to Minnesota Office of Management and Budget -- the only option was to leave it in the House of Representatives fund, those excess funds, which was not something that I wanted to do."

Carolyn Laine (DFL) - "I had my pay held back. That was just to, for myself to make it clear that this hurts, when people don't receive pay. It just keeps it in the front of my awareness. But I all along thought it does no good to hurt more people. How does it help to hurt more people by not having any pay? I'm aware that people who did not work in the state government did not work at all during that time, but other state workers could file for unemployment."

Kim Norton (DFL) - "I donated 20 days pay to Rochester Area Math and Science Partnership. That's a nonprofit that I work for. I did that because I was doing government work far beyond the legislative session. It was not a full paycheck, just the number of days that the government was shutdown. I felt a need to make up for the time -- because we didn't do our work, because we were working well into the summer."


Chris Swedzinski (R) - "A lot of legislators were donating to local charities, and that's what I wanted to do, too. My wife and I are keeping it at different groups, and different things. It's going to different groups, different charities. We haven't picked them out yet."

Ryan Winkler (DFL) - "We had to fill out a form to defer compensation. Afterward, I missed a deadline to tell them what I wanted to do. My intention was to treat myself as state employees were treated. So, state employees could get 50 percent of their salary in unemployment, so on my next paycheck I will take a 50 percent paycheck."


Paul Anderson (R) - "I took my check, but I donated a thousand dollars to charity, and another $300 in pay during the shutdown I'm donating to another charity."

Charlie Vander Aarde, DFL Caucus, for Denise Dittrich (DFL) - "The representative made the decision with her family to donate the pay for the July period. There's a number of places she's regularly made donations to, including her church and academic scholarships. She's still deciding where that will be."


Mindy Grieling (DFL) - "I donated half of it, which is what the state workers lost. It got donated to four organizations . . . The state workers have a very hard job and they were not at the table to have anything happen. They're just kind of powerless. So I strongly felt it was fair to not have a salary as much as they did. So that was my goal."

Phyllis Kahn (DFL) - "I've decided I should take the money and I should give it to things that are being distinctly hurt by the shutdown. And so I just figured out a set of things that could use it . . . I intended to do that from the beginning, I just figured it was a more direct way to deal with the people who've been hurt . . . I have no criticism of anyone who felt that they personally needed the money."


Steve Drazkowski (R) via email - "In late June, it was my full intention to defer any salary installments that would normally have been paid during the shutdown, until after the budget was resolved.  That is exactly what happened."

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