The Juneau Empire reports that Rep. Sam Kito III will not run for re-election this fall.
Kito represents House District 33, including Skagway, Haines, Klukwan, Gustavus, downtown Juneau and Douglas.
Kito could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He told the Empire he made his decision Friday due to financial concerns. Last week, the Legislature let the State Officers Compensation Commission cut per diem payments for lawmakers living within 50 miles of the state capitol.
That means Juneau’s three state lawmakers will not receive a daily allowance on top of their annual salary during regular or special sessions. Lawmakers had 60 days to pass legislation rejecting the commission’s recommendation, but did not act.
Kito spoke about the recommendation at a meeting of the House Labor and Commerce Committee on March 7. The single parent said he had saved money during his career as an engineer for his daughter’s college tuition. He said his job as a legislator was forcing him to draw from his savings.
“With this reduction I am in a situation now of having to choose whether I run again or whether I take money out of my daughter’s college account to continue this job, and I’m not prepared to do that,” he said.
Kito said the increasing length of regular and special sessions has made it a nearly full-time job. He said he has not been able to bill hours through his consulting job for three years due to the time commitment.
“If the choice or the decision of the compensation commission was to pressure legislators to not run, they’ve succeeded, at least if this goes forward,” he said.
Kito, a former civil engineer and legislative lobbyist, was selected from among nine other applicants to former Rep. Beth Kerttula’s open seat in 2014. He’s been re-elected twice.
Rep. Justin Parish confirmed Tuesday the he plans to run for re-election. The Democrat represents District 34 which covers the Mendenhall Valley and Auke Bay. He said the loss of per diem pay will not impact his decision, but acknowledged that he does not have any children or a mortgage to worry about.
“It’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t feel like they can run for public office for financial reasons and it’s unfortunate when diligent public servants like Rep. Kito leave public service for financial reasons.”
Parish called the compensation committee’s recommendation “unabashedly political.”
Juneau’s Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis, a Republican, is running for the seat.
KTOO’s Jacob Resneck contributed to this report. This story has been expanded with comment from Rep. Justin Parish.
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