Saturday, February 4, 2006

Let's Pay Our Legislators

Just over $16,0000.00. That's what a freshman legislator makes in Georgia. This is the salary we taxpayers offer for up to 40 days of service, sometimes spread over as many as four months. How many of you could afford to give up your job for this compensation? Haw many can leave the job you have for four months a year? Let's get real. The compensation limits the pool of potential candidates and increases the likelihood that legislators will accept gifts, dinners ,drinks, trips etc. From lobbyists. Plus, if the legislative salary were a person's entire wage for the year, then legislators who have a family of three would live below the poverty line. Is this good public policy? I don't think so.

It seems to me that the Georgia tradition of part-time legislators, born in a farming culture, was intended to make sure the people were not served by "professional politicians." Well, I don't think that has quite worked out! In fact, the average working person- school teacher, factory worker, healthcare professional- anyone who actually has to make a living and support a family, cannot afford to serve.

Here's a radical suggestion: let's make it illegal for legislators to accept any gift from a lobbyist and at the same time raise the compensation level to $35,000.00 per session. That way, a more diverse group could afford to become candidates and those elected would actually work for the people of Georgia, and not for the lobbyists. I am all for the public servant concept- I just want to make sure we are the public being served.

Clearly, a current legislator proposing this would be political suicide-apparently because the public has trouble thinking past the sound-bite. So, if this is going to happen, voters will have to be the driving force. What do you think?


Tim said...

could we couple this with a move to make our local and municipal races publicly funded? ;) just a thought.

Amy Morton said...

Interesting idea. I'm sure both proposals would face an uphill climb!