Legislature’s tiny pay cut still a screw up
|By Kyle Melinn|
Believe it or not, the Legislature actually cut its pay last week.
Starting in 2011, more than 10 years after letting slide the now legendary 38 percent pay hike, members of the state’s full-time legislative branch will be paid $71,685 a year, a 10 percent cut from $79,650.
And the Legislature still screwed it up. The Michigan House voted 103-6 to make the pay cuts official March 31 in front of a depleted Capitol press corps, which treated it like the resolution urging Turkey to reverse its discriminatory Ecumencial Patriarch policy. Stretch. Back crack. Yawn.
No floor speeches. Little publicity. Amazing.
If Joe and Jane Public know absolutely nothing else about the Legislature, if they blank on the governor’s name, if they think the Capitol is in Washington, they know that somebody gave itself a ridiculous raise a few years ago, and “it just ain’t right.”
They had a chance to humbly defuse a hot-button issue in a state where one in eight don’t have a job and many, many more are working for less. Instead, the 38 percent pay raise lives on.
Once upon a time, legislators made $56,981 a year. In a couple years they’ll make $71,685. That’s still a 2 percent raise every year since 2000.
Instead of being the country’s secondhighest paid lawmakers, they’ll be the fourth.
Since Jan. 31, 2001, lawmakers have bumbled around with a convoluted constitutional amendment that slightly changed the pay-setting process.
But, no. They wanted the pay. They just didn’t want the public headache. In August 2002, lawmakers put on the ballot this change: Instead of the Legislature speaking up when it doesn’t want the commission’s suggested pay hikes, the Legislature needs to specifically OK the recommendations. WOW!
Once we approved this minimal change, it took lawmakers and the administration six years to figure out how it worked. Three pay cut cries from Gov. Jennifer Granholm later, here we are. Any lawmaker elected next year will still get paid more than your average mechanical engineer, financial controller or construction manager.
The attempted reforms the Legislature will not stop. Very few will be constructive. Nearly all will substantially harm our state government. And eventually one will stick.
But at least the Legislature will get paid less … even if it means we pay for it, too.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.)