Mar 27, 2009
Misguided pay cut resolution approved in the Senate
LANSING – This is a pretty simple concept: if you want the best and the brightest, you have to pay for them.
That concept was lost Thursday when the Michigan Senate approved Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 11, which approved the State Officers Compensation Commission (SOCC) recommendation that would reduce salaries and expense allowances of members of the Legislature, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and the Secretary of State by 10 percent. It was a nothing but pure politics. State lawmakers will see their $79,650 annual salary go to $71,685 in 2011.
Here is an example of how it is being politicized: the official GOP blogger over at wrong Michigan gives us this lie of a headline: “MI Senate Dems oppose cutting their own pay, defend $80K salaries.”
First, they are not cutting their own salaries because it does not affect them. It does not take effect until 2011. Of the 37 current senators, 30 are term-limited and will not be back. It was a voice vote, and no votes were recorded. However, it passed with 29 votes. Considering there are 21 Republicans in the Senate, this was a bipartisan vote. Seven did not vote. and Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, had the courage and good sense to vote no.
The money saved by this move is nothing in a $44 billon budget, and it doesn't even effect this budget. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, tried to tie it to her Senate Resolution 15 that would save taxpayers $3 million by eliminating the current disparity in the budgets for Republican and Democratic Senators. Democratic offices would receive the same amount of money as Republicans. GOP Senate offices have five staffers, but Democrats only have three. Over in the Democratic controlled House, each office has the same amount of staffers; two in each office.
“The fact of the matter is that the Senate majority leadership runs it both ways,” Whitmer said. “They like to beat up on state employees and ask for another year of concessions and say, “Look, we’ve taken some cuts,” when the truth is these cuts don’t impact any of us.
“They just impact the next Legislature,” she said “So you still haven’t given up a darn thing. No nominations for profiles in courage here today.”
WrongMichigan then tried to take Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, to task for standing up and telling the truth: if you want the best people available you have to give them a fair wage.
“I personally don’t think, coming out of the auto industry as an auto worker, that this is too much money,” Basham said. “We do not make any more money than a school teacher, police officer, or firefighter.
“As a matter of fact, some $70,000 is what one of my mayors said her dogcatcher makes,” she said. “So I will look anyone in the eye and say I earn my pay, and I hope that other legislators would do their work and earn their pay too.”
You will recall the uproar over the 38 percent pay raise state elected officials received in 2000. But when you consider the last time they had a raise, it comes out to about 1 percent a year; that’s less than the rate of inflation. And nine years later, 2000 was the last raise they have received.
Many of the 148 state lawmakers travel from places as far away as the UP to be in Lansing. Because that is so far away, many rent rooms in Lansing in order to do business. Granted, the Legislature only meets three days a week, but the demands on their time is tremendous.
I cringe when I hear people advocating for a part-time legislature. If we pay people so little or go part-time all we will get are retired people, independently wealthy people and very young people who do not yet have a fulltime job. I don’t want 148 Dick Devos, Dennis Lennoxs or Joe Hunes in the Michigan Legislature. I want a cross section of the state that is at the top of their field. Asking them to take that big a pay cut will not attract the best.
How people can defend the salary of someone like GOP Gubernatorial candidate and Domino's CEO and pitchman David Brandon who makes $13 million – making him the second highest paid CEO in Michigan, but you think lawmakers overseeing a $44 billon budget make too much money at $79,000? That’s ridiculous. Domino's earned $54 million in 2008, but it’s OK to make $13 million a year? CEOS make 262 times what the average worker makes. In 1965 the average CEO was only earning 24 times more.
The most disgusting display was that of rightwing nut Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond. In the debate over the resolution, he went on a babbling tirade about the Democrats in general; from the President all the way down to the Macomb County Board of Commissioner. This was the first time I ever saw a Senator that had to be warned to stay on topic. This is also the same nut who thought he was Nikita Khrushchev and banged his shoe on the gavel last month. I wonder if he was a drama major in school.
He even took out after House Democrats who passed a simple three-part ethics package earlier this week that the GOP-led Senate killed last session.
“I find it a bit ironic that the party that brought you Kwame Kilpatrick and Barny Frank would be leading on ethics reform,” he said.
I find it a lot ironic that the party of “Casino” Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Ralph Reed and Duke Cunningham would even open its mouth about ethics, but it is fitting that they continue to be the people who block ethics laws. What was even funnier was his insincere apology afterward.
At the end of session, he “apologized” if he "offended anyone in any way today.” How about apologizing for your stupid, offensive display instead of for what other people may have felt?