When politicians vote to raise their own salaries, it’s awkward.
News of salary increases for public officials is almost always met with outrage. That was the case this week when the Union-Tribune broke the story about four of the five County Board of Supervisors quietly voting to raise their salaries by $19,000.
County Supervisors Greg Cox, Dianne Jacob, Ron Roberts and Bill Horn voted for increase. Dave Roberts was the only one to vote against it.
On this weeks’ podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts give the Supes’ pay boost an extended “Goat of the Week” entry, knocking them extra hard since they voted for it in a way that didn’t allow for public input.
Rep. Scott Peters calls in to the show to say we need a conversation that goes deeper than just knee-jerk, across-the-board opposition to all pay raises for public officials.
“We just never have a conversation about what the right answer is and all the coverage of salary for public officials just seems to be negative,” he said. “We need the engagement of the community and the press to help the local electeds find the right answer.”
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I agree with Scott Peters that we need a conversation about public officials’ compensation, not just knee-jerk reaction to any proposed pay increase. Since most of us can’t give ourselves a pay increase like many politicians can, I heartily agree, but an analysis of the whole package, not just salaries, is more than worthwhile.
Peters rationale for this seems a bit weak, however. He says it’s important to keep politician’s pay “competitive” AND come up with an automatic pay increase scheme so public officials don’t have to vote on their own pay. This is reminiscent of automatic COLA schemes common in union contracts in the 60s and 70s. Seems hard to dispute, but what does “competitive” mean? To attract qualified people? The only qualification for most political offices is citizenship, perhaps attaining a certain age, plus the ability to get people to vote for you.
Here’s my suggestion: Let’s start with a complete list of the pay, benefits and perks of members off the U.S. House of Representatives, where Peters is currently employed. I’m sure he could provide this if he so chose, but don’t hold your breath. He knows that the public would find the totality of his own package “breathtaking”.