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Both sides on the legislative pay amendment

by Dan Burns on October 27, 2016 · 1 comment

minnesota_state_capitolI looked around, and I’m presenting cogent arguments that I found for both “yes” and “no.” Here’s information on the amendment itself.
 

For nearly two decades, the Legislature has done the politically expeditious thing. It has not raised its own pay since 1997. Compensation for legislators has been stuck at a lean $31,140 a year, though legislators are also eligible for per-diem payments of up to $86 for senators and $66 for House members, and lodging reimbursement of up to $1,200 a month for those who must move to St. Paul during sessions.
 
That salary is not sufficient to attract the caliber of candidates this state’s government needs to fill a job that is billed as part time, but in reality is full time during sessions and part time for the rest of the year. Low compensation is complicating candidate recruitment, operatives in both parties confide. Over time, it risks populating the Legislature with people of independent means and/or those young enough — or desperate enough — to settle for a low-income job.
(Star Tribune)

Support for this plan comes wrapped in claims about the job is full-time, not part-time, and it’s not ethical (nor politically feasible) to vote on your own pay levels.
 
On the former, there is a very simple solution: Be more efficient with your work. (Hint: Is there is really a need to introduce more than 1,500-plus bills every session?) On the latter, most common-sense Minnesotans would say ethics would allow for such a vote if the performance of legislators actually warranted a pay raise.
 
Seriously, the last pay increase legislators received came in 1999. Since then, please identify any of the 16 years of legislative sessions that makes you say “Yes, legislators deserve a raise. After all, they got all their work done on time and with satisfactory results.”
 
Vote no. Keep legislators accountable for their pay.
(St. Cloud Times)

A contributor here at MnPP has also provided trenchant argument for voting no, based on the proposed makeup of the commission.
 
Me, I’m voting “yes.” I take some issue with the Strib’s presentation above; what we have doesn’t especially encourage “desperate” young people to run, but rather financially comfortable retirees, who tend to be politically conservative.
 
Things won’t get better, any faster than at the tectonic drift pace that is happening now, as long as conservatives have the numbers to block and/or reverse progress. I acknowledge that the proposal is far from perfect, but if there’s any chance that it will help produce a legislature with more progressives and fewer conservatives – and I think there is – it’s worth a try. Along with the fact that all of our legislators, even the ones with whom I personally happen to (often strongly) disagree on the issues, are long overdue for a raise. As are most people in our economically perverse, twisted, plutocratic culture.
 
Comments
 
From Mac Hall: Let’s be honest … first off, the passage of a MN Constitutional amendment is daunting … a majority of the participants in the election must vote Yes for it to pass … a No vote or a blank vote count the same. So how many people will go to vote for President/legislative/county candidates and then find out there is this amendment question and leave without casting a vote on the amendment ? Since 1900, 63 (roughly 82 percent) were not ratified because, despite receiving majority approval among those voting on the question itself, they failed to receive majority approval of all voters voting at the election.
 
So, why did the legislature take this step when they could have just voted to change the pay of future legislators ? Well, just look at the number of commercials and mailers being sent saying “He/She has voted to raise his/her own salary by more than 35% costing Minnesota families”. Thus rather than face the misleading campaign ads, they punted.
 
Now, let’s ask the question … is the salary fair ? $31,140 sounds like a lot … if they truly only worked when in session. Thus if the session is 66 days at 8 hours/day, they would earn roughly $60/hour. Less than what an attorney would charge per hour, and probably less than a plumber but still a good salary … if that’s all they worked.
BUT we know they do a lot of work outside of the legislative session … heck, sometimes they are force to convene in individual sessions in county parks to “exchange” healthcare proposals/documents. OK, seriously, they do a lot of work outside of the session … meeting with various commissions, county and regional groups to evaluate infrastructure proposals, healthcare facilities, etc. When there is an natural disaster, they are there.
 
By comparison, is it a fair salary ? Heck, let’s remember that there are nearly 3,000 University of Minnesota employees statewide make more than $100,000 in salary per year. Now, think about this, the U of M football staff is paid $2,932,000, that is roughly the salary for all State Senators. Considering that Head Coach Tracy Claeys gets $1.4 mill, that says his assistant coaches are getting some pretty hefty paychecks. Men’s Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino received a $400,000 annual raise last summer, increasing his salary to $1.6 million, while Women’s Head Basketball Coach Marlene Stollings will be paid in excess of $350,000 per year, with an annual increase of at least five percent. Heck, Women’s Softball coach Jessica Allister’s salary is $115,000.
 
Nobody is running commercials complaining about these taxpayer’s funds (as the MNDaily reports the Athletic Department has repeatedly relied on taxpayers to fund their spending).
 
OK … so let’s ignore the Athletic Department and just look some other government employees. Do you realize that there is a Board of Barber Examiners ? Yep, a four Member board backed up with a staff of three full time employees manage the business of the board: An Executive Secretary, an Inspector, and a Customer Service Specialist.
Max salary is $73,268. BTW … the fees the Board collects pays for their salaries and actually is profitable.
 
There are other Boards — some get higher salaries and some lower. Horse Racing is better paid ($88,488) than Private Detective ($57,065).
 
Heck, look at the salaries of County Commissioners … over the years, several have left the Capitol to seek County Commissioner seats … commissioners in at least 15 of Minnesota’s 87 counties earn more than their legislative counterparts.
 
Nobody thinks about other salaries … but given a chance to attack legislators for increasing their pay for the first time this century, is too easy of a target.
 
So the point is obvious … the Minnesota legislature is underpaid by comparison … but too many are afraid to do anything about it.
 
For the record, I voted Yes as it is just seems wrong that people are leaving the legislature to seek other governmental jobs … but don’t think it has a pray of passing.
 

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