Tipton’s staff largess demands explanation

Scott Tipton

For a man who campaigned as a hard-core fiscal conservative — who told people in Colorado that no one should expect to be immune from his efforts to trim the federal budget — it’s disappointing to see that Republican 3rd Congressional District Rep. Scott Tipton has the highest paid staff of any freshman member of Congress.

He’s tops in staff salaries among all 94 freshmen, Republicans and Democrats alike.

We gave Tipton credit recently for sticking to his tight-fisted principles when he drew criticism for refusing to sign a congressional letter of support for a federal grant to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority because he believed the grant included unnecessary frills.

But Tipton deserves criticism on this issue for straying from those principles when it comes to his staff pay.

Certainly, hiring good people is important. Furthermore, Tipton’s 3rd District is one of the most far-flung and mountainous in the country. However, the 21 people listed on his payroll during his first three months in office, according the website Legistorm.com, is not a particularly large number for members of Congress. It’s near the middle of the pack.

So it’s a surprise that a tracking report from Legistorm.com shows the avowed fiscal conservative Tipton outspending all other congressional freshmen in staff pay during his first quarter in office. He spent $243,431 on his staff during that time, $10,000 more than the next closest congressional freshman.

Tipton owes his constituents in western Colorado and the entire 3rd District an explanation of why his staff pay is so high. The official “no comment” from his office doesn’t cut it.

Moreover, Pueblo Democrat Sal Pace, who plans to challenge Tipton in 2012, is already using the issue as campaign fodder. Tipton will not be able to the duck the issue as he seeks re-election.

As was made clear in Charles Ashby’s article in The Daily Sentinel Tuesday, Tipton’s staff salaries are far from the highest among Colorado’s entire congressional delegation. That’s not startling, because people who have been in Congress for years, such as Denver Democrat Diana DeGette, have staff members who have been with them a long time. They tend to pay those staffers more than newcomers to the congressional world.

But Tipton’s staff pay was still significantly more than that of all other freshmen in Congress. He needs to explain to residents of the 3rd District why the fiscal sacrifice he has said we all must share when it comes to federal spending should not apply to his own staff.


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