Render Unto Caesar

January 13, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve been advocating for a wage increase for State Senators for many years. Is it finally time? Scott Lautenbaugh thinks so. He has put forward a resolution to increase wages to $32,000 from today’s puny $12,000. That sounds about right.

This pay increase resolution, like all the others before it, will cause much moaning and gnashing of teeth. “They only work 2 or 3 months out of the year!” they’ll holler. “Nobody should get rich in the Unicameral!” they’ll cry. And so on. The arguments against a raise are tired and familiar. I even agree with some of them. I just don’t agree that they apply to the present context.

I want a broad spectrum of Nebraskans to be able to serve in the Unicameral. I want them to be paid modestly, but not meagerly. I want to respect the work they do and acknowledge the year-round activity required to do the job well. I want to emphasize to Senators that they are not quasi-volunteers making a sacrifice to serve on my behalf; rather they work for me and I compensate them accordingly. I want them to be rewarded for doing a job for which few meet my standards.

Thirty-two grand seems like a fair amount to me.

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The Comments

George January 13, 2012 at 2:17pm

I think it’s the wrong time to ask for a raise, and I think that is going to be the biggest point of contention with many.  I won’t vote yes on a raise when I know that it could trickle down and eliminate services that our community needs.  These folks knew the wages when they joined.  They also knew that it has been a very long time since a raise was given.  They also know that the economy is poor.  Different time, different budget, different economy, I would probably vote yes.

Fletch January 13, 2012 at 2:59pm

I think they are underpaid, and I think $32K seems like a fair amount. However, I am not in favor of the Unicam deciding a) these term limits suck, let’s change that; b) hey, our pay sucks, let’s change that, too.

The voters of the state wanted term limits, and wanted them for a reason. The merits of that are up for debate. I suppose if the Unicam tries to change them, the voters will stay have a say, but I don’t like it.

I would be in favor of the Senators deciding to try to extend term limits and to enact pay raises, with the proviso that it does not impact them personally.

So sure, pass a pay raise, and when the next Senators are elected, they’ll come in at the new higher pay. But dear Senator, you’re not just going to huddle together, at a time when there is no surplus money, and just decide to pay yourself 167% more than you make today.

Matthew Platte January 13, 2012 at 3:42pm

Dear detractors, suppose *you* were asked to carry on with your life as it is now, but with an income of $12,000.  Your response?

Mr. Wilson January 13, 2012 at 3:49pm

<blockquote>But dear Senator, you

Mr. Wilson January 13, 2012 at 3:57pm

If I were a detractor, my response would be that $12k is a respectable amount of money for a 60- or 90-day session. You can talk all you want about how they actually work more than that, but it won’t matter. See also: the teacher pay debate.

I would note that Senators receive a per diem and, in some (many? most?) cases, travel and lodging expenses. Their pay is in fact more than just $12k.

And I would point out that Senators choose to take on the job, and therefore they choose to accept the pay and the quirks that come with a job.

...If I were a detractor.

Fletch January 13, 2012 at 4:20pm

My bad. In that case, it’s safe to say it won’t happen. Nice timing. Propose this at a time when a) we are still having funding and deficit issues at every turn, and b) public trust and faith in politicians is at (or near) an all-time low.

For the record, I will again agree that $12K is too low. As a voter, I wouldn’t approve a one-time jump to $32K. Maybe to $24K. Or even $24K in a 60-day session and $32K in a 90-day session year. But I would still implement it for the next round of Senators, not sitting Senators.

They haven’t been great stewards with our money. Hard to reward that.

Fletch January 13, 2012 at 4:22pm

I’m not a complete detractor, but I would answer with 2 thoughts.

1) They know the pay when the apply for and take the job.

2) It’s not a full-time calendar year position. It’s comparable to a $48K or $60K a year full-time job.

Bonus) They do get some other perks, too.

beerorkid January 14, 2012 at 12:24am

I work in the legislature.  I have to be a bit careful what I say. 

For some senators is is a year round full time job.  There are always interim studies, committee hearings, and fiscal meetings year round.  Senator Chambers was there year round working on stuff.

One senator works 2 jobs outside of the legislature to make ends meet.  You might run into that senator working at Target on 48th.

Some senators work on their own bills, others just push through bills written by lobbyists.

Senators do get gas mileage and a few other small perks, but it would be way less than you would think.  Earlier this year I attended a accountability and disclosure presentation by the NADC.  There are a ton of restrictions on all legislative employees concerning gifts and the like.

I really get the feeling that most folks only pay attention to what they hear about senators in the news instead of researching for themselves.

If you see me outside of the internets sometime ask me about term limits wink

Errandbug Restaurant Delivery January 14, 2012 at 7:44am

ok, I see both sides of what folks say.  But common…really, sure it may be only 2-3 months of the year for some of them.  But what real job on earth can you totally put on hold for 2-3 months and go do another job then come back and pick up where you left off.  Why should those who run for office, ie, there is a financial investment for doing that also.  But why whould they make basically nothing for their service.  Now I say this at the same time one of these said senators is proposing taxing the rest of us for soda pop. Personally I feel they should make more but at the same time I feel like a good majority of the “laws” that are passed these days are just stupid.  You would think that with the 100’s of thousands of laws already on the books that we would just about have everything covered by now.  Just saying…sometimes I think we would be better off just scrapping the whole bunch of laws and starting over from scratch.  Every year I hear of some case that found some loophole in a law from who knows when that totally got them out of trouble, ie, it is not technically a DUI if you are just sitting in the car with it off when the officer finds you…even though it is completely obvious that you were driving.

Fletch January 14, 2012 at 2:25pm

I don’t want to argue semantics. I’ve said it 3 or 4 times already: I think they are underpaid. $32K doesn’t seem unfair, but it’s a large one-time jump from $12K.

Senators that are there year-round working on stuff are doing so because they want to, not because they have to.

Senators have full-time staffs, and clerks, and committee chairs have an additional staffer. Those people are paid a full-time livable wage. They are there year-round, and do much of the legwork.

Ernie Chambers or anyone else could live there 24/7 if they choose, but they knew going in that it pays $12K a year.

Some are older and retired or nearly retired. Some are farmers/ranchers that can make the schedule work. Some I would presume are lawyers or self-employed people who can make it work. Some will use it as a stepping stone to bigger and better offices and view it as an investment.

My issue is more the way that it’s being handled or proposed, or the perception of the way it’s handled. It’s not the overall amount of dollars.

As to term limits, I think they can serve a useful purpose. I’m not sure we have them set at the optimal time. Of course, if I could wave a magic wand I’d change a lot of things about politics and have things make more sense. I don’t think we have room here for all that. LOL

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