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Final Word: The cost of being in Congress

As we wrap up another year and Congress finally gets SOMEWHERE on a budget deal, here are some amazing numbers on how much work your congressman (or congresswoman) does.

True, congressional approval ratings hover around 8 percent, but have you ever given a thought to what your congressman does every day?

A recent study by the National Journal looked at the amount of time spent on various parts of the jobs.

Here's a peek:

While in Washington, 35 percent of a congressman's day is spent on legislative and policy work. An additional 34 percent is spent on constituent services work and campaign events.

So, essentially, you're talking about congressional hearings and staff meetings, returning calls to people in your district and raising money for another run. Most of that is direct lawmaking and bill writing, and the rest is what helps guarantee he or she will HAVE a job come next election cycle.

Nearly 10 percent of his or her time is spent on media relations, which, coming from inside the media, I will tell you can be NO fun at all.

Administrative work amounts to 7 percent of the day, leaving 6 percent for personal time and 9 percent for family.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: "Wait, don't congressmen make a lot of money?!"

Not so much.

True, the salary for a congressman averages about $174,000, but he or she takes home only about $100,000 of that.

Add in the fact that the congressperson has to maintain two residences and keep up appearances at both, and you haven't got a lot of money left.

And what other job gets as much criticism?

I can't think of too many, except maybe a college football kicker. And they don't even get paid.

And don't forget: Your congressman usually has to keep smiling, even when he's not in the mood to get his picture taken.

Can you say the same for yourself when you're at work?

About the Author

Years with the company: Just started with Bonneville, but have worked for and with KTAR AM and FM since 1991.

Career: I always knew my career would be touched by news. I started as a news intern in 1991 and eventually reported news and sports, and anchored newscasts at KTAR when it was an AM, news/talk/sports station. I went to work at the Attorney General's Office in 1995, as a spokesperson for the 300 attorneys there, and for Attorney General Grant Woods. I returned as a part-time host and host of Arizona's Morning News Saturday in 2001.

Education: I escaped Catholic school early when the nuns wanted me to skip the second grade. I found my independent voice at a private grade school in Painesville, Ohio, then called Phillips Elementary. The teachers there encouraged us to ask questions and challenge the status quo. They took us on mind-opening trips and never once treated us like children. I am grateful for those years! I left Ohio in 1988 to attend Arizona State University because I knew I wanted to live in the West. I majored in Journalism and interned at KTAR in the newsroom my senior year.

Family: I am the last of nine children and my parents were undoubtedly looking at retiring when I was born. I was raised early on mostly by my five wonderful sisters. I have so many first cousins that I haven't yet met most of them.

Favorite movie: Caddyshack and anything by John Hughes.

#1 sports team: NL Diamondbacks. AL Cleveland Indians. Gotta love a team whose mascot is named Chief Wahoo.

Outside interests: Working out, cooking, traveling and reading a great book.


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