I was going to put this in tomorrow’s morning reads, but it’s a topic worthy of its own post. Jim Galloway discusses the forbidden topic lurking behind the ethics reform debate.
A couple of highlights:
- State lawmakers earn $17,342 a year. Ten states pay less, according to one national overview. A $173 per diem – only four states have higher daily expense coverage – augments their pay to $24,000 or so. If you get what you pay for, then Georgians should have no reason to complain. They’ve been paying for an army of fry cooks and dishwashers.
- “It really limits the people who can run for office,” [Godwin] said. A Legislature heavy with retirees, the wealthy and the willing poor doesn’t accurately reflect the public that sends them there, she argues.
- The less savory argument is that an adequately reimbursed lawmaker would be less likely to feel entitled to the free meals, booze, and tickets to concerts and football games that are now on the table.
- The problem is that lawmakers themselves are loathe to raise the pay issue. “I’m not going to vote for an increase in legislative pay when I have school teachers in every district that I represent who are being furloughed,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon.
- Livable wages for state lawmakers would have to be an issue taken up by a fellow with plenty of clout and little to lose. A governor in his second term, for instance.
Quick math: 236 lawmakers @$17,342 = $4.09M; @$60,000 = $14.16M.
- What’s the true ROI on that $10M difference?
- Could some of these watchdog folks accumulate enough examples of taxpayer money lost on unethical behavior to show where $10M actually starts looking like a great deal?
- And no, legislators can’t push this – “Hey, pay us more and we’ll start being ethical!” There’s no spin doctor around who can make that sound good.
- And without a public outcry, why would the affluent legislators who do it for the ego rather than the money willingly give up that power anyway?
- I wonder – where are the concerned citizens of each community who would speak out and say, “I would run against [this incumbent] if I were paid a salary I could live on all year. 40 days? I’d be your representative 24/365.” Those are the people who would need to get on the news to get the ball rolling I’d guess.