Thursday, March 24, 2005

Doubling State Senators' Salaries Excessive

by Kyle Michaelis
I want to see more Nebraskans able to serve in the Legislature, and that means there needs to be some salary increase. $12,000/year just isn't enough to compensate for the sacrifices and hassle that go along with serving. However, doubling this salary to $24,000 all at once, as State Sen. Dianna Schimek of Lincoln has proposed (LR12CA), is simply too much, especially if she actually wants to see this increase approved by Nebraska voters. The AP notes:
Voters have been wary of approving salary hikes. Since 1875, pay raises have been approved just seven times, an average of once every 19 years. The last raise was approved in 1988. At that time, the salary increased from $4,800 a year to the current $12,000.

Whether to raise salaries isn't up to state senators. Their salaries are in the constitution, which means if a ballot measure clears the Legislature, it also must be approved by voters.

More reasonable and acceptable would be a raise to $18-20,000/year. It doesn't seem like much of a change, but percentage-wise it would make a world of difference in the minds of voters. Also, it's just a more balanced salary for the time actually served (which is not exactly 365 days a year). Even so, I'm thinking any raise higher than up to $15 K will be a tough sell with voters. Claiming a person can't live on $12,000 isn't enough, especially when term limits are in-place saying we don't want professional legislators.

So, bet the farm and likely get nothing or bet the cow and have a pretty damn good chance at a steak? I don't think Schimek is being greedy - she knows as well as anyone the demands of the job. However, I've always thought her too smart to actually think this large an increase would pass. Maybe term limits really do make legislators more likely to take risks and think outside the box. Sadly, those tendencies usually go right along with less understanding of the issues and more slavery to personal passions.


Post a Comment

<< Home