As we start a new year of
necessary lawmaking, the upstanding members of our esteemed legislature had the plight of their pittance for legislative work highlighted on NPR.
The fact is: our legislators have a right to gripe and the citizens should advocate for their raise.
While there’s a de facto expectation that our legislature is a part-time job let’s just face reality and acknowledge it isn’t. We also expect our legislators to do a complex job and we can’t attract or retain the talent to perform said job if the compensation doesn’t cover the costs associated with it.
Unless we want to consolidate a massive amount of power with the governor or some technocratic agency (the latter doesn’t sound so bad) we have an untenable situation for citizens who answer the call of public service and want to maintain a positive real life. For the conservatives who say government should operate like a business: show me a successful business that operates with that compensation to work model. You can’t because it doesn’t exist.
From a policy perspective, the current model of payment grossly distorts the perspective of our legislators. Very few people can afford to commit to spending 40 days in Q1 in Atlanta every year. Far fewer can afford to that and additional campaigning and legislative work throughout the year. You end up with the pool of legislators that we have now. If you think that’s representative of Georgia or produces a diverse view point for the state’s citizens… well.
I don’t necessarily have a figure in mind for what legislators should get paid but even if was a bump up to $40,000 (essentially the median household income for Macon, which I would consider a decent, imperfect benchmark for a middle class lifestyle in the majority of Georgia) we’re arguing over .040% of the budget.That’s a rounding error for something that would in theory lead to a better legislature. How is that a bad thing?
The legislature shouldn’t be a path to riches but it shouldn’t impoverish people either. Right now the situation we have doesn’t produce any desirable outcomes either with who can serve, who we attract or what impact we have on the budget. That’s an indefensible argument for our status quo.