As you’re thinking about #okleg pay increases today, I’ve found it helpful to think about what kind of legislator you want at the Capitol, and then imagining whether they could quit their job for what Oklahoma pays lawmakers.
— Dale Denwalt (@denwalt) October 15, 2019
And whatever action the board takes today will not take effect until Nov. 2020, after the next election. That means no one will get a raise or see their pay cut ahead of or during the next legislative session. The base salary for lawmakers is $35,021.
— Shawn Ashley (@eCapitol_Shawn) October 15, 2019
For the 2018-2019 school year in North Carolina, a 23 year old with a bachelor’s degree in education has a minimum starting salary of $35,000. I hope that our legislatures have more experience and knowledge than a first year teacher as the scope of their work is more complex.
Cheap legislature pay means the legislature is easy to capture.
Term limits means expertise and knowledge devolves to lobbyists and interest groups as they know where the bathroom is as well as where the high value comma should be placed next to an “and.”
“No budget, no pay” rules means that the party whose members can go without pay for years has a significant leverage advantage over the party whose members need to pay a mortgage on the 27th of each month.
We get what we pay for. Institutional rules partially determine leverage and power which then influences outcomes. A legislature where the only people who can afford to serve are either independently wealthy or easily bought out by concentrated interests will have a very different agenda merely due to the life experience of relevant leaders applying a filter of their own experiences to policy problems than a legislature where a wide swath of society can afford to run and serve.
We need to think through the first and second order effects of simple solutions to complex problems as the incentives tend to get messy.
I’ve long thought that Cincinnati took a dive after term limits for City Council were put in place.
I won’t bore everyone with the details (this is a favored soap box of mine), suffice it to say, the revolving door of city government is no match for our local monied interests. They’re happy, everything now goes their way.
Damon Linker (@DamonLinker) Tweeted:
Everyone read this now. It implies that someone very close to Trump, or perhaps Trump himself, could be making billions of dollars off of short-term market trades keyed to fluctuations trigged by the president’s statements and actions. https://t.co/BdXGBBIeYS https://twitter.com/DamonLinker/status/1184650429977825280?s=17
@Ohio Mom: Ugh =/
@David thanks for this post. Well argued as always.
If we’re going to talk pay scales, then the pay ought to be set by statute at no more than the median income of the state. And pro-rated per diem, as many state legislatures are not in session year round.
@NotMax: disagree. A good state senator is probably more valuable to society than the Wendy’s manager.
“No Budget, no Pay” has worked pretty well here in CA, Term Limits have been a clusterfuck for the reasons you indicated.
Alexandra Petri, national treasure:
@?BillinGlendaleCA: No budget, no pay hasn’t really changed things. Kicking the GOP out of the process is mostly what did it.
Though I see no harm in having it there. It certainly doesn’t hurt.
Villago Delenda Est
Think things through? That’s crazy talk!
Man, this has been a glorious week for anyone with imposter syndrome. You could put 20 people in a vegetative state in the WH and they’d do a better job than this bunch of idiots. If you don’t feel qualified to be president right now, you’re not paying attention to who’s running this country – the lot of them.
Disagree with your disagreement. A good state senator will recognize that if he or she wants a raise then the way to go about it is to work to increase income across the state.
Also too, under any system a good state senator makes the same as a bad state senator. Wendy’s, at least, rewards the performance, not the title.
Last, a good state senator will recognize the value of public service as an end in itself and not as a vehicle for personal financial reward.
Villago Delenda Est
@dmsilev: The snark is strong with this one.
@NotMax: I agree with the sentiment but think maybe the pro-rated salary should be correspond to, say, the 80th percentile in the state. (80% number taken out of hat, but should be somewhere between median and top.)
Wasn’t one of the states that had teachers out on strike for being so badly paid? It’s a vicious circle.
I agree with everything you say, but there’s an additional problem that it’s very difficult to avoid. Even if we pay our legislators very well, it still has crappy job security. Yes, some incumbents keep getting reelected, but that’s not much consolation to somebody who’s first trying to break into the field. It’s going to be very hard for anyone who lacks a good fallback job to spend months campaigning for a job they may very well lose in a couple of years.
The Ohio Legislature also has term limits. Enough said.
No, it really hasn’t. The first few years of “no budget, no pay” had the same kinds of problems passing budgets as we had before. The logjam didn’t break until we eliminated the supermajority requirement to pass the budget, which was always a dumb idea and very obviously the reason the budget couldn’t be passed on time.
They’re living high on the hog!!
Here in Virginia, the annual salary for delegates is $17,640 per year. Senators get $18,000. They get per-diem.
“But they only work part-time!” Yeah, and they’re captured by the state’s energy utility and other corporate interests.
We need to pay legislators more so that they can actually do the job full-time and not have to beg corporations and rich donors for funding to run their campaigns, etc.
“Penny wise and pound foolish.”
Am not married to strictly the median, do feel that tying it to the median is crucial. 66th percentile would be a nice parallel to the two-thirds a legislature generally needs to override a veto, for example
Obvious Russian Troll
@rikyrah: If there is something crooked going on here, my bet is that Trump is not making nearly as much money out of it as he should be.
Sort of related:
Steve in the ATL
Why didn’t anyone give me a heads up that it’s “disagree with BillinGlendaleCA” day? I would have checked in much earlier!
I keep MarketWatch open on one of my monitors at work (I have nothing to do with this kind of thing). I have often noticed after they post some kind of Trump statement or action, the fluctuations increase, almost like a fluttering heart.
@Steve in the ATL: Ya snooze, ya looze.
@Steve in the ATL:
We thought you would notice that it’s a day ending in “y”.
I concur. You get what you pay for. Why folks believe amateur politicians above the small town council level is a good idea beyond me. Oregon still considers legislating a part time job. It meets every two years for 5~6 months so you need another job that will work around that. Tends to limit legislating to independently wealthy and retirees which has to skew things a bit. Salary of $31k is about half of our $60k median income. I think professional politician is an honorable trade and we’d be better off with a smaller unicameral full time legislature paid $120k.
Steve in the ATL
@?BillinGlendaleCA: @Roger Moore: well, I was in Cincinnati earlier today and you how that place is what with the underpaid city councilmen and all….
I heard there are algorythmns that buy or sell stocks based on Trump’s tweets quite a while ago. As he goes deeper off the edge I’m guessing the market responds less and less to what he says.
My nephew’s wife is a Tulsa city councilor. Her salary is about 20K.
Pay matters not a whit: we can rely on ALEC to fill the need.
@Steve in the ATL:
The Internet hasn’t arrived there yet? Give it another 50 years.
There’s a very common belief that politicians are out of touch with their constituents, spend too much time in the capital consorting with other politicians, and need to spend more time back in their districts interacting with ordinary citizens so they don’t lose track of what’s important. I’m not sure that any of these things are actually false, either. The problem is that their proposed solution- making the legislature a part-time job so politicians are forced to go home- creates a whole new set of problems.
IMO, it’s better to do something more like what the US Congress does. They give legislators a staff back in their home district that can keep in touch with their constituents and figure out what the people want. They also have regular recesses* so people can go back to their districts for town hall meetings, pressing the flesh, etc.
*I hate it when people behave as if their Senators and Representatives are taking a vacation during legislative recesses or being slackers by spending Fridays flying back to their districts. They aren’t. They’re doing the very important business of going back to their home districts to hear from their constituents, which is exactly what so many people complain politicians spend too little time doing.
Who cares about legislative pay rates? THESERVERTHESERVERWHEREISTHESERVER???
Please, dude, blow a fuse and soon.
Ok back on topic a bit: part-time, poorly-paid legislators are a bad idea. So are term limits. So is gerrymandering of any kind – just let a computer run a couple ‘cluster’ or ‘compact’ maps, and then flip a coin on live TV.
Off to go see if the Chiefs have figured out how to actually run the ball (run OTHER than Mahomes scrambling) or stop the run. I have a bad feeling they think they are supposed to stop it on offense and facilitate it on defense. Silly Chiefs!
@Calouste: Oh wow. Missed that. Wonder if he’ll testify in the impeachment hearing. What a busy day in the swamp.
Pennsylvania has one of the highest legislature salaries, $87,000 It also has a generous per diem and slush funds (maybe they did away with them; i forget.) It also has the largest state legislature. And yet, it is dysfunctional. As I recall, it used to be argued that the pay should be lowered because otherwise the “wrong people” are attracted and stay forever.
When all is said and done, the quality of the state legislature depends on the quality of the voters.
In New Hampshire they get $100 a year.
In New Mexico, they’re unpaid.
Chicago alderman make north of $100k. It is effectively a part time job. Many alderman hold other jobs such as partners at law firms that specialize in appealing property tax assessments.
The system works.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: My list of grievances is here somewhere. Hold on a minute.
But you usually don’t get what you pay for. There is a correlation between pay and performance (or, more broadly, price and quality) in many fields, but it is often tenuous.
Most of the reasons given against low politician salaries are essentially statements of another problem with our system – like the ability for “cheap” politicians to get “bought out” by corporations.
My ideas on it are far more radical than most – and certainly impractical to actually get passed in any American legislature. Yes, I realize this is effectively a pipe dream.
1) Hard-fix politician salary to the minimum wage in the area they’re responsible for (I could possibly be persuaded to set this to median instead.)
2) Hard-fix politician benefits to minimum available public benefits – want healthcare? Use the public healthcare system.
3) Prohibit all other sources of wealth and income. Including “independently wealthy” people – want to be a senator? Sorry, give up all your holdings first (to some minimum quantity, determined in some way based on wealth distribution in the relevant area.) Enforcement needs to be appropriately strong, of course.
4) All of the above are either lifetime effects, or at least “duration of office + 5-10 years”.
I basically want governance to be a lifetime commitment, and to only permit people who are willing to sacrifice a lot to get in.
But maybe (3) + (4) would be sufficient.
Villago Delenda Est
@Mary G: Yeah, yeah, the clip will make it unmistakably clear what a douchecanoe Stone is.
David ??Merry Christmas?? Koch
If you raise state legislators’ pay, then it will be more expensive for corporations to bribe them, which will produce more inflation, which will hurt the little guy. QED.
@Andrey: In that case, you’d get almost exclusively obsessive fanatics of some sort. And criminals who know how to hide their income from the law.
@NotMax: I remember what Molly Ivins wrote about Ann Richards, that she never would have been able to run for Governor if there hadn’t been a decent salary and pension in place. In politics, it’s not only that you get what you pay for, but who does the paying gets what they pay for.
Ask any teacher how much less “complex” the scope of their work is, and you will get a startling answer.
Teachers are expected to be subject matter specialists, psychologists, social workers, mediators, babysitters, stand-up comedians, experts in technology, nurses, and skilled liaisons with childrens’ parents, guardians, tutors, doctors, and psychiatrists.
They are also expected to function as security experts / bodyguards ready to lay down their lives at any minute in order to protect the children in their care, and the vast majority would do so without hesitation.
And they do this for some of the lowest pay and worst working conditions of any skilled profession.
Not saying that legislators shouldn’t get paid a better salary, but I am saying that I’d love to see the average state legislator survive one week in a classroom, or be willing to take on the incredibly long work days and the exhausting and multi-faceted work of teaching for the pittance that we pay our educators.
You may not always get what you pay for, but only a fool expects to get what he doesn’t pay for. You can’t expect to treat legislating like a hobby and expect to get great results. You sure as hell can’t do what you suggest and make life as miserable as possible for legislators and expect to get good people to sign up to serve.
OT, but I finally found the roll call vote on the Kurdish resolution (searched yesterday without luck) and my odious congresscritter Tom Reed was one of the 60 against. Pardon me while I puke and donate to his most likely opponent.
Damn, but today’s Mulvaney stuff is making me think this is some sort of performance art shit. I’m half expecting Chuck Barris to come out with a big gong and let us all in on the secret. Except, ya know, Barris is dead and all.
ETA: Big gong, Donald. GONG. Good grief.
@dmsilev: I wonder if Democrats are tempted to add violations of the Emoluments Clause in their articles of impeachment, this is so ridiculously blatant.
@Matt McIrvin: obsessive fanatics is exactly what I want.
I don’t think criminals would be that big an issue. Most income hiding schemes work by mixing with plausible legal income. When there’s *no* legal avenue for it, it’s a lot harder to hide.
Our local city council gets paid $10k. The only people who can take the job are either retired or own and operate their own businesses. That means you get a lot of older, white people so things like attempting to have any civilian oversight of the police are hard to accomplish.
@Roger Moore: many of the best people in our world are the lowest paid – think teachers and humanitarian volunteers.
More importantly, the point is that living on society’s minimums should not be miserable. It should be comfortable. Politicians are a lot more likely to make that happen if their skin is in the game.
@Roger Moore: You’ve made a series of great points. For me, the last is most compelling. It’s fine to think of incentives that encourage legislators to improve the lives of other citizens, but you need to attract good people to the job in the first place.
The best legislators are thinking about how to make positive changes in the world, I imagine, but they’re also thinking about how to make ends meet; if they have families it might be about how best to prepare their own children for the future. “Hmm, a job with a cap at such-and-such percent of the median salary…” Would you [the generic you] go for that job, however well-intentioned you might be? Me, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
In a similar vein, my response to whining about taxes is “Yes, Democrats believe valuable government programs should be paid for. Unlike Republicans…”
We “lose the argument” about taxes when we let it be about just taxes.
Not me, no way. Even if what they’re actually obsessed about is good, you can get high body counts with someone who’s on a mission from God. Those are the Pol Pot types. Could even be worse than a corrupt toad who believes in almost nothing, like Trump.
Too many people seem to think that government collects taxes and then just burns the currency. It’s crazy.
@Andrey: Teachers don’t control multi-billion dollar budgets, pass laws that impact civil rights and the economy, and all the rest that we delegate to legislators.
Yes, teachers should be paid much more and have better working conditions. But it’s a category error to compare them to legislators, IMHO.
@David ??Merry Christmas?? Koch: Was that today when he resigned, or two years ago when Trump was running? Wait, couldn’t have been before today, or Trump would never have considered him for the cabinet.
Civil Servant low pay and support for cheapness. One of the thing that disappoints me most about Boomers (my generation) and the kids they raised is I think our selfishness as a people has risen. I’m not sure really. It just seems that my folks grew up in the Depression and came of age during WWII. They all worked together a lot more and they shared because they had to. Boomers? Gen X, Y? Not so much. As a culture the focus has shifted from raising all boats to what can I get out of it? It’s too bad. We really could do better as a people.
David ??Merry Christmas?? Koch
@Ken: it was fron 2015 during the primaries
@kindness: Those older generations (with happy exceptions) were racist as fuck. White people were often kind and cooperative among themselves.
When white Americans had to officially not be racist, they responded by becoming collectively mean and selfish to everybody, because it was the only way they could get away with being publicly mean and selfish to non-white people.
This has been a capsule history of the 20th century in the United States.
@NotMax: That is so true … in theory. In fact and reality, low salaries for elected officials mean only three kinds of people can serve:
1) the independently wealthy, or non-working spouses of the rich;
2) the corrupt — either those who are bought by lobbyists and influence peddlers, or those who peddle influence themselves, or (another type of corruption) people in a particular industry that the industry helps out because it would like to have a pet elected official;
3) the civically insane — people who are just incredibly nuts for public service, and sacrifice their own interests pretty much entirely to be lamp-bearers for the common good.
#3 is what your theory says we’ll get. I’ve known a FEW people like that who served in public offices where salaries were pathetic, but they are FAR, FAR outnumbered by people in categories #1 and #2.
Salaries for public office need to be high enough to attract normal, reasonably talented, non-rich people. If they’re low, then elected officials begin to expect that their sacrifice for public service will “pay off” in another way — either after they leave office and start working the halls, or through outright corruption in office.
Low salaries for elected officials are a gift to lobbyists and influence-peddlers, and industries that need to exploit the revolving-door between legislators and lobbyists.
@p.a.: Yes, exactly!
@kindness: Caveat: This is a gross generalization that applies to exactly no one who will actually read this comment, so if you take umbrage at the the description of your generation, rest assured, I didn’t mean you:
The New Deal brought with it a consensus, which had been building for three decades, that we, collectively, through government, could improve our health, education, and financial security (at least for white people). White baby boomers were selfish because they never had to think about that stuff – it was already there. They were raised in economic security and relative peace at home (despite foreign wars), with low or no cost quality public lower and higher education, hospitals, public facilities, etc. When it came their turn, why should they have to pay for all that stuff that other people were going to use? Gen X and Y had to content themselves with picking up the scraps that the boomers ignored – the jobs and relative income levels were just not there. That’s not all the fault of the boomers, as a lot of it was due to a shift to a post-industrial society, but it coincided with the tightening of the social safety net and the spread of conservative values (which is basically, I got mine, f*ck you) into government and the media. So you end up with three generations looking out for themselves, for different reasons, but still.
@Matt McIrvin: This too.
J R in WV
Second largest after New Hampshire, which is the largest at 400 members.
@Kelly: Legislative session time isn’t the only thing a legislator should be doing. They should also be doing constituent service and communicating with voters.
Full time legislators are a big value to their states and well worth the price of a mid level store manager.
Seems to me if you want a functional legislature you need to:
Pay enough to attract a non-rich person
fix the gerrymandering
stop the voter supression
Get the money out of politics and have publicly funded elections.
This will level the playing field and allow legislators to actually do their jobs rather than spend half the day soliciting money for their next campaign. And it’s easier to find a couple of big donors (who you then owe favors to) than to spread out the solicitations.
If somebody has better ideas or the officeholder isn’t doing her job you’ll get a new legislator. There’s your term limits. You’re in office as long as the voters elect you, but you have a fair fight each election cycle.
This would work both nationally and for local offices.