North Carolina's pay for legislators is an embarrassment. Some even have to take other jobs just to make ends meet! It's true they don't meet 12 months a year, but think of all the work they have to do after hours -- going to cocktail parties, dinners and sporting events, for example.
How can our great state compete for the best talent when legislators can just cross the line to another state and make thousands more? Did you know starting legislators in Alaska make $50,400 a year, plus a hefty per diem? For goodness' sake, we pay our legislators only $4,000 more than Mississippi!
Do we not value what these people do? How can we find it acceptable that our children are taught about politics from people who make less than sanitation workers? An entry-level legislator has to work for years to see any bump in pay. Why, they have to work their way up all the way to majority or minority leader to get a $3,000 raise. No wonder they don't feel appreciated.
It's true that legislators don't go into this field to get rich. It's their passion for the work; nothing is more rewarding than that moment that they see that light go on in a campaign donor's eyes and they know they've made a connection. That's what it's all about.
Still, do they not deserve a living wage, for all they do? Thankfully, there is finally a push being made to do right by the people we entrust our public policies to each day. Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, is taking a courageous stand: He has proposed a bill that would nearly triple legislators' pay, from $13,951 to $36,000. They would, of course, maintain their expense allowance of $559 a month and their per diem of $104 a day when they are in session.
But with legislators being so vital to our future, we propose an even better approach than across-the-board raises. It includes a menu of options (though some might not go over well with the legislators' union):
- Instead of giving a raise to everyone, we will give a raise only to starting legislators. Those in their first term will get a 5 percent bump, but all others will remain flat.
- Legislators will give up their tenure, er, safe seats. But in return, the top 25 percent of legislators will get a $500 per year pay bump. Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger will decide which legislators are among the best 25 percent.
- We don't want to reward the bad legislators, only the good ones. So we will institute a pay-for-performance merit raise structure. Only those legislators whose constituents score well on civics tests will be eligible for a raise.
- Every legislator will get a letter grade from his or her constituents. Those who are awarded A's will get raises. All others will not. This will create incentives for our legislators to do their best.
- Any legislator who earns a Masters in Public Policy will not be awarded extra pay.
-- Taylor Batten