Tuesday, March 22, 2005

$$ What is a good Governor's worth? $$

by Kyle Michaelis
State Sen. Dianna Schimek has introduced LB 683 to the legislature, which proposes to raise the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, state auditor and members of the Public Service Commission.

"Why," you ask? Well, mostly it seems because Nebraska lags rather tremendously behind the rest of the nation in payment of these officials. This doesn't surprise with the anemic salaries of our state legislators, which I think is an even more serious issue because it so severely limits our pool of citizen representatives.

Our own beloved OWH reports:
Nebraska ranks close to last in pay for elected officials. Only Arkansas pays less across the board to its top elected officials, according to a survey by the Council of State Governments.

A few other states pay less for one position or another than Nebraska. But the Cornhusker State ranks 47th or lower for the salaries paid to the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor.

Unsurprising to the political-minded, it seems very possible, should this bill be passed, that Governor Heineman would veto it, as Governors Johanns and Nelson had done before him. Seems they all think voters might not like the idea of a man approving of his own pay-raise, at least not with tax dollars.

The question then is have these short-term personal politics hurt the offices in general? Someone thinks so.
Barry Rubin, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, called the current salaries "laughable" and endorsed the proposed salary hikes.

Elected officials sacrifice much to serve the state, he said. They lose time with their families, subject themselves to public scrutiny and often forgo higher salaries they could be earning in the private sector.

"I am in favor of pay increases for all elected officials," Rubin said. "You get what you pay for."

Personally, I agree, but a Democrat in this day and age should have learned to speak a little less eagerly about spending the people's money. Not that I blame Mr. Rubin - he's still new to Nebraska and doesn't seem to have fully grasped the conservative and, yes, semi-populist impulse in this prairie state to keep its elected officials at the level of the people they are to represent.

The VAST majority of people reading this article aren't going to be concerned so much with upping the Governor's salary to $100 K as they are with the fact that 61 state employees (NOT including the University) are already making more than that. I guarantee there'd be a lot of public support for raising up the Governor by bringing down those around him.

Even a lot of Nebraska Democrats would question a Governor's needing to make more than $80 K/year, as they would anyone else dependent on THEIR dollars for a living. We don't call them public SERVANTS for nothing.


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