Tahlequah Daily Press

March 14, 2014

Divorce offensive link between judicial, politicians’ salaries


TAHLEQUAH — We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, with extra emphasis: Most of Oklahoma’s high-ranking public officials don’t deserve the salaries for which they’re currently bleeding taxpayers. And they certainly don’t deserve raises.

It’s funny how elected officials always manage to turn up sleazy, under-the-table ways of enriching themselves, at the expense of the suckers who foolishly voted them into office. Under current law, the pay of state officials is married to judicial salaries; if the latter get raises, so do the former.

This is a ridiculous notion, and State Rep. Mike Brown had introduced two bills to split up this unholy couple. HB 2923 would have filed the divorce and set specific pay for officials, but predictably, it was put in the corner like an unruly child. House Joint Resolution 1087 would have allowed the Legislature to nix the judicial pay hike altogether – an even better idea. One of these measures is still alive, though floundering in the brackish pond of cronyism.

Gov. Mary Fallin has said she supports the move to unlink the salaries. That’s a wise political gambit, since she’s running for re-election – and since her salary is the same as that of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s chief justice. If events unfold as planned, the governor would get a $17,640-a-year pay boost – more than many Okies scrape by on in a year.

State-level mucky-mucks with black robes and gavels haven’t had raises since 2006, but most average folks will find it hard to muster any sympathy. Nevertheless, the Board on Judicial Compensation generously recommended a whopping 12 percent raise for state judges. That means the chief justice would get $164,640 a year – and so would Fallin, or her successor.

With associate justice pay hiked to $154,174, the lieutenant governor would get a $13,766 raise. The Attorney General would see an increase of $15,939 to match the $148,764 pay of the civil appeals court presiding judge. Perhaps most obscene is the state superintendent of public instruction’s bump of almost $15,000 to $139,298. The unpopular Janet Barresi must be excited enough over that possibility to need a box of diapers, and who could blame her?

Incidentally, the corporation commissioners, state treasurer, state auditor and inspector, and state insurance commissioners would be $13,766 richer next year. The labor commissioner, poor thing, would be riding drag with a mere $12,606 in new windfall.

It would be nice if the Oklahoma public had any say in what their elected and judicial officials are paid. As it is, the gap between what those elitists are taking home, and what the average Oklahoman must scrape by on, is getting wider with each passing year.

The truth is, these “public servants” may show up for work, but they’re as much a part of the entitlement class as the average welfare recipient. With the economy as it is today, even if they’re among the rare taxpayer teat-suckers who does an exemplary job, they don’t need raises. And if they get them, voters should toss them out on their fannies at the next available opportunity. Actually, we should probably do that, anyway. It’s time to clean house.