Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bad Math, Reasoning

The California Citizens Compensation Commission approved a legislative pay raise in May that went into effect this week - boosting salaries 12% to $110,880/year.

Predictably, the Chronicle's Matier & Ross wonder why legislators need a raise when they are already among the highest paid in the country. Nevermind that Compensation Comissioner Tom Dominguez (my cousin - no, not really, just kidding. Though, who knows, maybe if you go back far enough he and I are rightful heirs to one helluva piece of property in Los Angeles) explained the reasoning a few paragraphs earlier. Dominguez said - and this Dominguez agrees - that he doesn't think the Legislature "should be exclusive to just the rich and famous." The goal was to encourage "qualified, regular people" to seek public office.

California members make more than their counterparts in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, or Massachusetts. I can't say for certain they all have full-time legislatures, but I know for certain they aren't all as big as California nor is the cost of living in each of those states as high as it is here. And for some of them, there's less state to traverse to get to work.

But nevermind that, why should Matier & Ross get bogged down in, like, rational comparisons. F the greedy bastards who are required to set up two households, kiss off most family time for 6 years or so and risk marriages and large amounts of protected defamation just to represent us in Sacramento.

Who the hell do they think they are.


Anonymous said...

When I was a child, I used to think that the president should be the highest paid person in the country because he had the hardest job in the world.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that legislators are allowed to hold outside jobs and most make good money that way.

Anonymous said...

how many = "most," anon?

Anonymous said...

Many legislators in California may have outside business interests, but being in the CA legislature is a (more than) full time job. You can't exactly work a 40 hour week for some company while you are doing that. You are pretty much left with the investments you may have had prior to joining the legislature, which may be minimal for some legislators.

Anonymous said...

Because it doesn't have to be reported, no one knows how widespread it is, but many legislators lobby local governments on behalf of clients.

When Willie Brown was speaker, there were some complaints because cities needed his help to get state funding at the same time he was lobbying them for development projects that his clients were proposing.

This is true with most government agencies. On the local level City Council members will take jobs with developers or business interests who don't work in their city to lobby councilmembers from other cities that they have come to know through the League of Cities and other organizations. City Staffers will also take jobs advising businesses that don't do work in their city and lobbying staffers in other cities that they have developed professional relationships with.

In smaller cities, there are usually only one or two lobbying firms that do this type of work and that makes it hard to pierce the veil of knowing who is really behind a project, because they simply pay their lobbyists as employees and except for agencies that have reporting requirements, no one ever finds out.

Many people have criticized this as a major conflict of interest because there is a belief that if an elected official didn't vote for the business interests or the developers, they wouldn't get the lobbying job in the other city. A lot of people believe that is sort of an unwritten rule that special interests have for themselves.

Anonymous said...

MI, NY, PA, IL all have full time legislatures. OH and MA have mostly full-time legislatures. The cost of living in NY and MA, at least, are not that much lower than CA. Their legislatives salaries are significantly lower, though. In CA - after each leg. accepts his per diem in addition to his salary, he will take home closer to $130K a year. MA annual salary: $53.3K + perdeim, NY: $79.5K, no perdiem (these numbers aer based on last year's salary).

If you really want to get "qualified, regular people" into public office, get rid of campaign finance laws so that rich folks can support better qualified poor folks; Bill Simon was never a good candidate, but he couldn't just give his personal war chest to Tom McClintock.

Even if you think that the people in Sacto actually need to spend as much time up there as they do to justify such a high salary (what happened to the idea of public service being a sacrifice?) - an assumption I strongly disagree with - and even if you think they should be making more in the public sector than 85% of them could ever hope to make in the private sector - again, something I doubt very strongly - maybe, just maybe, giving them a raise at a time when CA's finances are so effed up (because of them - the gov too, but since this gov doesn't take his salary, that's a moot point) might not be the best thing for PR.

The quote includes an interesting qualifier: "qualified, regular people." I've spoken to a good many of the legislators currently in Sacto. Some of them, from both parties are really bright and super hard working. But a good many of them, on both sides of the aisle, are dumber than a sack of hair. I'd be a lot happier if we elected excellence rather than mediocrity - but then, all too often we scorn excellence or the appearance of it b/c it offends our egalitarian sensibilities. Again, I think if we changed current campaign finance laws, better qualified people would run b/c they wouldn't have to worry about every aspect of their private lives being made public.

Anonymous said...

The other problem with electing excellence is that they get termed out of office. Some of our best legislators lost their jobs recently.

Pennsylvania recently had a brouhaha about their legislative pay. In a ver late night/early morning session over the summer, the legislature voted to increase their pay to about $83k/year (if memory serves me). They then skipped town (I believe it was right before a scheduled summer recess). There was such a public outcry that they actually voted to reverse it a month or two ago. At $83k, they would have been the second-highest paid legislature in the country, only behind California.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, CA avoids that particular brouhaha by having an "independent" commission determine their pay rate so that the legs don't have to face that outcry.