No passing the buck on legislative salaries
May 25, 2005
Now, is that the kind of backbone we’re looking for in state leaders?
The Nevada Legislature, afraid taxpayers might vote them out of office if they raise their own salaries, is considering the creation of a committee to raise their pay for them.
When in doubt, form a committee.
State legislators haven’t had a pay raise in 20 years. This is either because they don’t think they deserve it, or because they haven’t had the guts to go on record as believing they deserve it. Either way is rather telling for a group with the power to tax the rest of us as they see fit.
Let’s get this much out of the way: Lawmakers’ pay is inadequate for the amount of work they do and the level of responsibility they hold. It should have been raised gradually over the years, and it should be raised gradually in the future.
Another point: Setting your own salary is an inherent conflict of interest. We expect legislators to abstain when they have a personal interest in other matters, so it’s difficult to distinguish this issue from any other.
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Nevertheless, voters have only one means to hold their elected officials accountable – at the ballot box. The Nevada Legislature has had many opportunities to raise the level of compensation for future sessions, or to implement a price-indexed schedule. That’s not necessarily raising their own pay, because they would have to be re-elected to earn it.
A committee already exists to review the salaries for elected officials, so there’s no need for another one. Let it make recommendations and have the Legislature vote on them.
Either it’s the right thing to do and can be defended, or it isn’t.