Saturday, February 17, 2007

$96 per day

Our legislators in Minnesota are debating whether or not to increase the per diem expenses legislators can claim from the current $66 to $96 per day. Now St. Paul, Minnesota is not the most expensive city in the country so $96 per day seems very generous since it might break down as follows:

Breakfast - $15.00

Lunch -- $25.00

Dinner -- $50.00

Misc. -- $6.00 (legislators get free parking so perhaps $6 for some sodas and a candy bar but even better, a piece of fruit given the "War on Obesity" we have in this country -- thank God I am too old to be drafted for this one!!! )

Total -- $96.00 per day

Currently Minnesota legislators are paid about $31,000 annually PLUS the per diem expenses along with health benefits and housing allowances for members that do not live in the Twin Cities.

I was struck by the coincidental timing since I read about this per diem increase in my local newspaper on February 16th and was sent the following article (see weblink and excerpt copied below) on February 15th regarding legislative salaries across the country:
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
"Legislators' pay falling behind", By Eric Kelderman, Staff Writer

"Legislators in Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas are paid the same today as when Gerald Ford was president in 1975. In Indiana, lawmakers’ base pay has been stuck at $11,600 for 22 years. Nebraska has awarded only four legislative pay raises since 1934 – the most recent in 1988."

This article by Eric Kelderman notes that legislators in California are the highest paid in the country at $110,880 annually while New Hampshire's legislators are the least paid at $100 annually.

Now I see two schools of thought regarding legislative pay scales:

1.) Increase salaries high enough to attract the best and brightest in our society, and
2.) Reduce not only the salaries but also the length of legislative sessions to allow citizens with full time jobs to minimize the amount of time they need to be away from their careers in order to serve in the legislature.

Personally -- I am solidly in camp #2 above -- cut salaries and cut the length of legislative sessions. Why? Primarily because citizen-legislators are more likely to live like the rest of us tax slaves versus full-time legislators that sit around dreaming of new taxes and "services" to deliver to citizens to help justify their full-time jobs thus giving us greater potential for keeping the reach of government limited.

Would you prefer a full-time legislator - with no other outside job experience -- in your state getting paid perhaps $150,000 per year (so we can recruit talent!!!) or would you prefer electing your local restaurant manager - who perhaps makes $50,000 annually in his/her private sector job where they must deliver quality customer service everyday or risk going out of business -- to a state legislator job paying a nominal $500 per month ($6,000 per year) for perhaps a 60 day legislative session?

If the business community and the limited government community that I live and work in really want to reduce government/tax burdens then we should all unite to cut salaries and cut legislative session timeframes. Such a "double cut" would expand the range of candidates for public office thus enhancing consumer (aka "voter") choice via contested primary elections and the rise of third parties who would find it easier to recruit candidates since they would not have to quit their "day jobs."

Food for thought,



jdsqrd said...

You didn't mention the third school of thought that a generous salary for service should reduce the susceptibility to bribery.

earthmuffin said...

Dear Beagle:

Perhaps if you bozos in Minnesota paid your state legislators as much as your federal congressmen are paid you could attact the same quality state legislators as your US Congressmen, Keith Ellinson for example.