One of the issues I’ve been silent about so far is the Constitutional Amendment that would take legislative pay out of the legislature’s hands and move the decision on salaries for legislators (and many other government employees) to an independent council.
Brianna Biersbach writes an excellent piece on the subject in MinnPost.
The government-accountability hawk in me says “note no and do it now!”. Voting for pay raises is political suicide; the limited-government spending hawk in me says “good”.
But there’s a little more to it than that.
A friend of the blog – a solid Republican – wrote me yesterday:
I am a single income, homeschooling, tithing Christian man in a [modest house in a first-ring ‘burb]. It would be tough for me be a legislator and leave my IT job for 6-9 months a year for $32-49k. Am I off base?
Not at all. I’ve been approached to run for office. I’ve had to respond “unless I win seats in a couple of districts, I can’t financially justify it”.
Currently, “serving” in the Legislature is effectively limited to a few classes of people:
- People with highly remunerative jobs they can put “on hold” for weeks or months at a time. Think lawyers.
- People whose spouses make enough to support the political habit
- People whose employers are really conscientious about allowing their employees to take sabbaticals for public service. Show of hands? That’s what I thought.
- People working for unions who see the benefit of having members in high places. Including lots and lots of teachers.
Oh, there are a very, very few legislators with relatively limited financial means who work for the $32K and change the legislature pays, and find pick-up work between sessions. But they are rare indeed.
In effect, it limits “public service” to people whose entire goal is…well, public “Service”.
So there’s a theoretical case to be made for the council.
Realistically? They’re not going to make the legislature financially remunerative enough to draw successful private-sector workers into public life. And that’s largely a bad thing; especially in Minnesota, our legislature needs more of them.
The other option, I hasten to remind you, would be to get by with less legislature, and legislation. North Dakota’s legislature meets every other year, for a very abbreviated session. It pays the same as it paid 120 years ago – $5 a day (plus per diems) – so it’s nobody’s idea of the career. And North Dakota is a much better-governed state than Minnesota.
But that’s never getting on the table; too much pork for the political class is at stake.