Friday, January 25, 2008

Should State Legislators Hand Over Their Salaries?

According to the Baltimore Sun, Senator Bryan W. Simonaire, Republican of Anne Arundel, is proposing to give the legislature the option to reduce its own pay. Currently, legislators’ pay is determined by a state commission, and the legislature can vote their recommendation up or down. Simonaire would like to allow the legislature to cut their own pay if the state’s finances suffer (as is currently happening). But is this such a good idea?

I’m not convinced that it is. I know quite a few politicians pretty well. They may be motivated by a lot of things, but pay is not one of them. After all, the typical state legislator makes just over $43,000 per year for a 90-day session and endless nights of putting up with crazed civic activists (like me). They would get a whole lot more money (and less aggravation) from continuous non-legislative employment, believe me. And the savings available from eliminating their salaries altogether amount to only $8 million out of a $15 billion general fund.

But the compensation question is an interesting one. In my industry – unionized construction – we have fixed scales for journey workers. But on certain jobs, we negotiate shared bonuses for the workers that are tied to targets. So if we meet our schedule dates, the workers would get a bonus. If we meet our safety goals, we would get another bonus. And if we keep absenteeism below a certain specified level, we’d be paid even more. Because the profitability of the contractors increases in line with our performance, they are more than happy to make these kinds of deals with us. In our case, bonus payments are made to groups of workers because construction is a team industry. So too is politics.

So why not have a bonus system for politicians? If all the legislators within a particular district get something important done for their constituents, let’s throw ‘em a bit of extra dough! So here’s my bonus schedule for my beloved District 18 delegation:

Install new sidewalk on west side of Connecticut Avenue in Kensington: $10,000 bonus

Bury power lines in Montgomery Hills: $20,000 bonus

End evil train horn noise in Kensington and Forest Glen: $30,000 bonus

Get special elections for legislative vacancies in MoCo: $40,000 bonus ($20,000 more for banning MCDCC members from appointing themselves)

Get funding for underground, deep-tunnel Purple Line: $50,000 bonus

Get new Metro entrance at Intersection of Death: $100,000 bonus plus Adam agrees to not send any email for a year.

So what are you waiting for? Come on guys!! Let’s get cracking!!!

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