Legislator pay question not a big-money issue
Nevada voters should have fun with the question on the Election Day ballot about whether we should double the salaries of our legislators. It’s a tempting opportunity to send a message.
But in the end, voters should swallow hard and approve the pay raises. Nevada legislators are in the bottom 10 among the 50 states in terms of salary, making $3,900 per year, and they haven’t had a pay raise for more than 20 years.
The pay isn’t quite as bad as it sounds … they also get a $99-per-day living allowance when in session and are reimbursed for travel and other expenses.
This pay raise issue is likely to get a lot more attention than it deserves in comparison to issues of greater significance, including education and tax-and-spending controls.
No legislators anywhere in the country get rich from their salaries, nor should they. The highest legislative pay in the country is in California, at $110,880 per year, while at the other extreme, New Mexico pays no salary, only expenses.
It shouldn’t cost people to serve in public office, and that may be the case for some Nevada legislators who sacrifice their personal and professional business. That could turn out to be a deterrent for people thinking of running for public office. In fact, if we want to encourage our neighbors and co-workers – average Americans without a great deal of financial wherewithal – to run for office, a case could be made to raise the salary even higher.
Legislators could have taken care of this themselves, but none wanted to be associated with increasing their own pay. Who can blame them, based on the acrid tone of the races leading up to the primary? So now the question falls to voters.
Election Day will be an opportunity to send a message, and that will be by choosing the right candidates.