Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack says her opponent — Republican Steve King — should return the pay raises he has gotten since being elected to congress in 2002.

“A service member in Iowa makes about $48,000 a year,” Vilsack says. “I’m a public school teacher. If I were still teaching I’d be making about $50,000 and Steve King makes $178,000 a year and for people struggling in the fourth district, I think that’s a considerable sum.”

Vilsack misspoke. The current salary for members of congress is $174,000. King’s salary has increased nearly $20,000 since he took office in January of 2003.

“At the same time he has not voted for bonus pay for our service members; $1500 is all they asked for,” Vilsack says.

King has said he deserves his pay raises because actions he’s taken as a member of congress have saved taxpayers billions of dollars.

“To decide that you should vote yourself a pay raise and then actually say that you deserve it is not right,” Vilsack says, “so I think he should give it back.”

King’s campaign accuses Vilsack of “misleading voters in a desperate attempt to distract them” from her own policy positions. According to King’s campaign spokesman, King has never voted to increase his pay in a “stand-alone” vote when congressional salaries were the sole subject matter being voted upon. King voted to freeze his pay earlier this year and, in 2010, King voted against a pay raise for members of congress.

Vilsack says if she’s elected to congress, she’ll give any pay raises back to the U.S. Treasury until the federal budget is balanced. Vilsack made her comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television.

Vilsack’s campaign cites five instances when King voted for legislation that included pay raises for congress, as well as a 2009 vote when King opposed a rule which would have blocked automatic pay increases for Congress.