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?


kevins said...

We already have one of the highest paid legislatures in the nation. I think it is in the top 3, certainly in the top 5. Are you saying that 45 to 47 states have worse governments than we do because they are lower paid or part-time? I don't see the evidence. The quality of our state lawmakers is average at best. If part-time legislatures work for the vast majority of our states, why wouldn't it work in Michigan?

Here's a quiz for you: How many state reps and senators do you think took a pay cut when they moved into their current jobs? Not many, except mostly for some retired folks. In most cases, a state rep or senator is earning more than he or she ever did before.

You seem to think you know Livingston County well. Can you name a state rep or senator...past of present...who didn't get a pay hike when elected to the State House?

It was a pay raise for Joe Hune, Chris Ward, Valde Garcia, Judy Scranton, Sue Grimes Munsell, Fred Dillingham....I'm not sure about Mike Rogers; I doubt he made much in the FBI but he got elected before the big legislative pay raise. So I truly don't know.

I'm not criticizing them. But this idea that they made a great sacrifice for public service is silly. This was a job advancement for almost all of them. And many parlay it into even greater jobs, such as lobbying, after they are out of office.

Communications guru said...

You may be right, brett, but so what?

How many state reps and senators do I think took a pay cut when they moved into their current jobs? I have to go through each bio, since I don‘t know many of the new 40 or so state Reps. Just in Livingston County, two got a big raise. Cindy Denby may have broken even because she had to give up her job as the Handy Township supervisor. Just going through the citizen’s guide, I will say among the ones I know what they did before I will say at least 50, but I’m sure the number is higher.

Well, I’ve only lived in Livingston County since 1998, but Judy Scranton, Paul DeWeese and Susan Grimes-Munsel come to mind.

Anon said...

Guru, you're a trip.

You come out in favor of robo calls, and now you're in favor of Michigan having one of the highest paid legislatures in the country.

Yes, sir. You're certainly in touch with the common man.

Communications guru said...

“Not in touch with the common man?” That’s a little hard to buy considering I am a common man.

As for robo calls, there is this pesky little thing called the 1st Amendment, and I think that’s a mite more important that your annoyance over your phone ringing. Like I said in November of 2006 when I made that post, we can and should place some reasonable restrictions on them, such as identifying who is paying for the call, limiting the duration of the calls and placing some reasonable time restrictions on the calls.

I believe that to get the best you have to pay a decent wage, and I also believe people should be paid a living wage that is commensurate with their responsibility.

Not Anonymous said...

At $79,650 per year, Michigan has the second highest paid legislature in the nation. Only California has a higher pay rate at over $116,000 per year.

This isn't fair. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate at 12%. California has the second highest unemployment rate.

This governor and this legislature are way underpaid. They've maintained the highest unemployment rate in the nation for three years and been at the top for the past 6 years. They've worked hard to destroy this state and have succeeded. They should be rewarded for their success by getting an increase in pay. Perhaps if they had an increase in pay, we could reach a 15% unemployment rate even faster.

What else do we get for the pay scale of our elected state officials? They want to require that every person that applies for their first drivers license are instructed in the necessity of recycling.

If you didn't get it, the above is written tongue in cheek. Now, I realize that Guru doesn't understand what that means so let me be clear. That was sarcasm.

This government in Michigan has been an complete failure. Repubilcan, Democrat, Governor, Legislature. The whole lot. Eliminate the pay for them. They haven't earned it. Eliminate them. Anarchy would be better in this state than what we've gotten from this bunch of losers in Lansing.

This state is the joke of the nation. It took only six years for us to fall from a top state to laughing stock of the country.

Communications guru said...

The two aren’t related. What a ridiculous rant. I have no idea how to respond to that illogical, loony rant.