Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

October 23, 2013

Legislative pay hike proposal an insult

TAHLEQUAH — Last week, the Legislative Compensation Board, by a 7-1 vote, nixed an audacious proposal to raise the base pay of state lawmakers from $38,400 to $44,000 a year.

The lone holdout for the windfall was former State Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa, who claimed a “competitive salary” was imperative if Oklahoma wants to coax “independent thinking” folks to serve.

Let’s get this straight: If an individual isn’t paid at least twice the amount of the average Okie, for about a third as much work, he’s not going to be a good “public servant”? Given the lack of concrete accomplishments from this recently gerrymandered state body, it’s tempting to accept that explanation. On the other hand, we do have some pearls among the swine, like our own State Rep. Mike Brown, who has done an exceptional job for his constituents.

The truth is, Oklahoma legislators continue to be among the highest-compensated state lawmakers in the country. The Daily Press conducted an analysis several years ago, and despite some across-the-board changes, the shocking outcome of this study remains largely the same. An Associated Press article last week indicated our lawmakers have dropped to 16th in the nation, though they are the best-paid among all neighboring states

 The article did not say whether it calculated rank based on the part-time status of Oklahoma lawmakers, since they only “work” about four months out of the year, whereas many other Legislatures are in session year-round.

The $38,400 salary for four months of work would seem generous enough to the average person in a state with a median household income of $44,312. But it’s even more attractive when you add in the $147 daily per diem for legislators who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol ($153 next year), plus the 56-cents-per-mile travel reimbursement and a monthly health care allowance of $640.  That’s not counting the optional retirement benefit, or the extra compensation for certain leadership positions, which ranges from $12,364 to $17,932 per year. A couple of legislators were heard to grouse that they hadn’t had raises since 1998.

We suggest these “people of privilege” join the club. Not only have many private- and public-sector employees not had raises for years, they’ve also been subjected to furloughs and benefits cuts. And if Oklahoma lawmakers could be seen as overpaid in 2013, the amount they were receiving in 1998 borders on the obscene.

It should also be pointed out that the starting salary for a public school teacher in this state is $31,000. That’s ironic, since teachers are often criticized by detractors for being paid for “only nine months of work.” Why aren’t those same naysayers lambasting legislators, with their minimum $62,000 annual package, for “only four months of work”?

Wes Milbourn, chairman of the compensation board and an appointee of Gov. Mary Fallin, had this to say: “With today’s government and today’s environment, I think we would not be looked on as wise members of this committee if we were to do increases, especially with the federal government shutdown, and cuts here and cuts there.”

That may have been an understatement. The large number of state legislators have not even proved themselves worthy of hanging onto their jobs for any length of time, much less worthy of raises of nearly 8 percent. Oklahomans should be insulted anyone even suggested it.

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Editorials
  • Ban on wage hikes by municipalities a mark of hypocrisy

    The words “God” and “governor” may share the same first two letters, but the two are hardly interchangeable.
    But let’s assume Gov. Mary Fallin really isn’t deluded enough to place her powers on the level of a deity. What rationale would a woman who has championed smaller government and local control use to explain her hypocrisy in banning individual Oklahoma cities from raising minimum wages in their jurisdictions?

    April 18, 2014

  • Community cleanups a good way to ensure our collective success

    This is our community – and it’s no better than what we make it. Let’s make it look great.

    April 16, 2014

  • Attack at school in Pennsylvania: Mental illness root of problem

    Washington’s crusade against guns was dealt a severe blow on Wednesday. No, it wasn’t the Supreme Court curtailment of the Second Amendment right of all Americans to own firearms. It wasn’t an executive order handed down by the administration. It was the brutal assault by a high school student in Pennsylvania against his fellow students – with a knife.

    April 14, 2014

  • People with faulty zippers should be booted from office

    We may forgive, but we shouldn’t forget, because there’s serious work to do in Washington. That work will never be accomplished as long as flawed zippers - literally or figurately – are a pervasive problem.

    April 11, 2014

  • Do your part to fight animal and child abuse

    It’s hard to change the habits of an abuser, especially when mitigating factors – such as alcohol or drugs – are involved. And these patterns tend to repeat themselves in successive generations. But all of us can take one small step to help eradicate this epidemic, and that is to report it when we see it.

    April 9, 2014

  • NSA head lies to Congress, and seems to get away with it

    Is there an obvious pattern of criminality within these governmental agencies? If so, why isn’t the Judicial Department investigating?

    April 7, 2014

  • Pass for rich kiddie rapist proves that justice isn’t blind

    Someone in Wilmington, Del., needs to keep an eye on Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden for the next few months, because she might improve her standard of living due to a sudden influx of cash.
    There’s no other way to explain why Jurden would have sentenced an ultra-wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter. It’s an outrageous miscarriage of justice that once again proves when it comes to the U.S. justice system, the elite get a pass almost every time.

    April 4, 2014

  • Maybe it’s not $3.2B, but state should still account for tribal cash

    In an editorial published last week, the Daily Press said that through tribal compacts, the state of Oklahoma received about $3.2 billion in annual revenue, partly attributable to the 117 casinos (or 118, in some reports) run by 33 tribes in the state. The information we accessed for that piece was confusing, and had a typo or two, which may have led us to overstate – to a considerable degree – how much money the tribes actually give the state.

    April 2, 2014

  • Tribal compacts should mean state has money to perform its functions

    Oklahoma should be rolling in the dough. The statistics bear that out. Thirty-three American Indian tribes operate 117 casinos in this state. Thanks to “compacts,” these tribes have been sharing the wealth with the state of Oklahoma. And thanks to the casinos, that wealth is substantial.

    March 28, 2014

  • It’s time to turn in your candidate announcements

    If you are running for a political office for which Cherokee County voters can cast ballots, it’s time to turn in your announcement. We’ve already run a few, and expect several more. The primary elections are Tuesday, June 24, with the registration period to vote in this election closing Thursday, May 30.

    March 24, 2014

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
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