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Politicians wiggle over wage hikes

February 05, 2002

Politicians wiggle over wage hikes



Nothing is of more amusement than watching politicians squirm over the issue of their own pay raises.

The School Board went through it, the County Commissioners went through it and now state lawmakers are wrestling with the very tough problem of whether they ought to earn $31,509 or $43,500.

I will make my own personal pledge to you here and now. If I am ever, at any stage in my career, no matter what duties I am performing, asked to vote on my salary - well, I have just two words to say about that, "Cha-ching."

You bet. If asked, I'm going for all the scratch I can get. As a matter of fact, I have to question the sanity of anyone who would vote against raising his or her own salary.

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Take Sen. Alex Mooney (please). He says: "We're in a deficit year ... This is no time to be giving ourselves raises."

Can't argue with that. Except in Mooney's case, his vote against a small increase for himself is actually a vote in favor of a big increase for himself. (The texts of Mooney's legislation and his fund-raising letters are usually one in the same). About to be locked in a very tough re-election race, he needs to pander for all the votes he can get. So to him, earning $31,509 a year is preferable to earning $00,000 a year, if you know what I'm saying.

Sen. Don Munson doesn't have that worry, since Washington County voters will still be sending him back to office in the year 38,393. He wants the raise, and says: "Every working person deserves an increase from time to time." Munson also says the General Assembly is a full-time job deserving of full-time pay.

What Mooney says makes sense. But what Munson says makes sense, too.

So who are we to believe? We need to turn to a deeper thinker here. Let's move on to Del. Joe Bartlett.

Bartlett says he supports the pay raises although he also supports reviewing the pay raises because "I certainly don't want to be greedy about it."

I see. But then Bartlett voted against a pay hike for his own Frederick County Commissioners, while he's preparing to vote in favor of a pay hike for himself. Beyond that though, he voted in favor of a pay hike for the Washington County Commissioners. As it stands, he's 1-1-1 on pay hikes for public officials: One yes, one no, one maybe. Yikes. Better seek yet another opinion.

Del. Bob McKee says: "When you've got your feet planted in the real world you bring a totally different perspective, to the citizens' advantage."

Ah-ha. In other words, you don't want full-time pay because you do not want a full-time legislature. If you're a Jeffersonian, you certainly adhere to the idea of a citizen legislature - people who return to the real world after performing their public business.

So how many of our own "citizen lawmakers" have real, certifiable jobs? By my count, two. The rest are either admitted full-time lawmakers or have purported real-world "jobs," but never seem to spend a lot of time on them.

Which reminds me, I was once covering a Democrat who was running for office who claimed to be (depending on what group he was speaking to) an author, a farmer, a publisher, an educator, a small businessman and a consultant.

I used to worry because if the farmer in him died, or the farmer and the author in him died we might be OK, but if he were to die all over, well, there would have been no way the local economy could have withstood such a hit.

But back on point, it seems everyone on this pay issue has a valid point. So what to do? Simple. All lawmakers, like Mooney, who are morally opposed to pay raises and vote against them should simply give their raises (which will certainly pass the full legislature) to charity.

We'll wait to hear what charities these lawmakers name as the benefactors of their largesse.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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