Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oregon legislators' pay vs. minimum wage

(WARNING: 'way things should be' rant)
I've always thought elected officials' pay rates and benefits should be linked to the average worker wage and benefits. Afterall, why should elected officials get to set their own pay and benefits? Shouldn't elected representatives' compensation and benefits reflect the conditions of all workers? Certainly, such a compensation system would give political leaders a built-in incentive to improve their constituents' minimum wage rates, health insurance, and social services. For example:
Governor Salary: 2 times average citizen* annual wage State Senator Salary: 2 times annual minimum wage State Representative Salary: annual minimum wage benefits: average citizen* paid holiday, paid vacation, retirement, and health insurance
* "Citizen" wage and benefits -- not "worker". The elected leaders' compensation would be adjusted to reflect current unemployment rates and social service benefits. Imagine the attention the state's healthcare "system" would get if lawmakers' healthcare benefits equaled the benefits the State provides its beneficiaries. I could go on and on in "world according to me" mode, but at least I know I'm not alone in this thought. A letter in today's edition of The Oregonian about Rep. Doyle's personal-use-of-campaign-funds scandal contrasted legislators' pay and the minimum wage:

Did anybody else pick up on the irony [when] former Rep. Dan Doyle's attorney Marc Blackman explained his client's predicament by stating "everyone knows you can't live on that, let alone support a family," referring to Doyle's legislative salary of $1,248 a month?

This from a legislator and his party that have consistently voted to reduce or restrict the minimum-wage laws in this state, which currently provide $1,257 a month for a full 40-hour workweek. Evidently, that extra $9 a month makes all the difference in acting honorably in our society.

STEVE R. YATES, Southeast Portland

I have heard some comments that the Doyle scandal highlights that the need for Oregon to have a full-time legislator system instead of the part-time legislator system we currently have. I believe one of the purposes of having is part-time legislator system is to maintain a representative body in which lawmakers maintain real jobs instead of full-time politicians.

Switching to a full-time legislator system would be a real challenge. I think basing legislators' compensation (including benefits) on actual average citizen compensation would be one way to sell such an unpopular switch to voters.

Of course, crowning me Supreme Ruler of the World is a great idea too.

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