Written October 19, 2016     

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Should legislators get a raise?
They should get a pay cut

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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Don't give them a pay raise, give them a pay cut.

Members of the New York state legislature, the folks in the Assembly and Senate, the last thing they need is more money.

But that is exactly what they are going to get.

After the election, a commission appointed by the state's top politicians is going to recommend that the base pay for state legislators be raised from about $80,000 a year to about $120,000 a year. Members of leadership -- which ends up being almost everybody -- would get more on top of that.

The way the commission is set up, its recommendation will be accepted as a matter of course. The legislators themselves will never vote on a pay raise, it will just happen. Politicians will get all of the benefit, and none of the responsibility.

And New Yorkers will get all of the shaft.

Because this scheme will do nothing but call more hogs to the trough and cement in place a governing system in New York that is primarily focused on the enrichment of party hacks who hold elected office.

Compounding the folly of "professionalizing" the political class is the call for a ban or restriction on outside income. "Reformers" want all state politicians to make all their money from sucking at the public teat. They want to completely divorce them from the economic realities of the real world.

Here's why the whole thing is wrong.

When you make being a legislator a full-time, high-pay job, you make having the job and holding it the purpose of elected office. People will seek office not because they particularly care about issues or people, or because they have any unique talent or insight, but because they want the money.

That will be particularly true for those who have failed to create significant careers for themselves outside politics.

That means that political office will be a magnet for losers who can't make a living anywhere else.

Oh, sure, there will be a fair number of community organizers and grant chasers, but that just bears out the point. People who have acquired a skill or an education, who have run a farm or owned a business, will be kept away by the ban on outside income, and those who have essentially leeched off the system will be drawn by the big check.

And they will pretend that their service is worth it.

Which it isn't.

Few elected bodies in America are more feckless, pointless or purposeless than New York's chronically corrupt state legislature. Seldom have so many, capable of so little, screwed up so much.

And what they need is a pay cut.

The very nature of the legislature would change if it stopped being a cash cow for losers. If the pay was cut -- by three-quarters, to $20,000 a year -- the type of people drawn to service, and the type of service they provided, would dramatically change and improve. Instead of being welfare recipients in suits, people of achievement elsewhere in life would be attracted. They would have a stake not in growing government, but in the state's real-world economy.

They would be drawn because they believed, and could contribute.

They would also turn over far more frequently, ending the feudal and servile system of mob-boss seniority that rules the roost today.

Which raises another issue: To reform the state legislature, cut out the pensions and benefits.

Dangling a top-dollar pension at the end of years of kissing leadership's arse only serves to perpetuate the incompetence and immorality that currently define all things Albany. Under this proposed pay increase, most legislators will eventually get a lifelong state pension almost one and a half times the state's median income.

Chasing down a state pension is what sends most politicians to Albany and leaves them there long after they have ossified into the problem.

No pensions for part-time jobs, and the legislature must go back to being a part-time job.

Lower the pay to push away the parasites. Lower the pay to bring in people smart enough to make a living doing a real job. Lower a pay to replace self service with public service.

But don't give them a raise.

It will only worsen conditions in America's most dysfunctional state capital.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016

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