No Tricks, No Raise

Propositions 201 and 302: Tell Your Lawmakers To Take A Hike.


ON A BALLOT filled with hoaxes, this one is near the top. With a straight face, those hustlers actually state "Arizona's elected officials and judges are servants of the people. The people should decide their compensation."

Currents No shit--the people do now. That's why you're voting on a pay raise as Proposition 302 (which we'll get to in a minute). We decide how much our elected public servants are paid. This scam, slapped on the ballot by the Legislature, takes away that power and gives it to a commission appointed by--you guessed it--the Arizona Legislature.

Even if you believe that our politicians aren't paid enough, this should stick in your craw. Do you really want to let the pols pick the folks who decide how much pols are paid?

Former Gov. Rose Mofford actually signed off as the writer of the opening two sentences quoted above, which indicates just how deep the loyalty of the political class to each other has become. For shame, Rose, for shame.

Reject this piece of crap--keep the right to determine how much "public servants" are paid with the people. A big NO on 101.

The duplicitous Prop 101 also makes us say NO to Prop 302, which would increase legislative salaries to $24,000. While we're on the subject, let's destroy a few hoary myths concerning Arizona's supposedly crummy legislative pay:

  1. Legislative salaries of $15,000 a year are augmented by a tax-free per diem, which is currently $85 for those lawmakers coming from outside Maricopa County. This figure is set by the Legislature itself. There are other benefits, like mileage reimbursements. Plus, legislators and all other elected officials accrue pension benefits at double the rate of ordinary state employees. That's easily a $30 grand-plus annually for a part-time job.

  2. The salary doesn't keep poor people out--most of them would love that real $30,000-plus. It might keep some rich people out, but who cares?

  3. Paying more doesn't get you more honest people; it gets you bigger crooks. Chicago aldermen make a bundle, and yet a high percentage of them are under indictment at any given moment--and they have the additional perk of being able to hire each other's families. In states like California where legislators pull down big bucks, there are more lawmakers in the slammer at any given moment than Arizona had during AzScam. The only difference is the number of zeros in their bribes.

  4. The low pay doesn't chase people off. There are other reasons, like crummy media coverage and dormant political parties. Also, too damn many activists have chosen the ballot prop and the lawsuit as the primary method of changing public policy, as opposed to the American tradition of representative government. While there are hardly any contested legislative races this time, there's a whole gaggle of people running for local school boards--which pay nothing.

  5. Bottom line: You're not supposed to want to do this job for the paycheck! You will not get better government from those who do; you'll get even worse.

H. L. Mencken once proposed that we create legislative bodies the same way we do juries--random selection. Conscript citizens to make the laws the same way we now pick them to decide if you've broken those same laws. If jurors are considered worth only 12 bucks a day to make those decisions, then $15,000 a year is clearly too much for those who decide what the rules will be. Nobody ever cares about raising juror pay. TW

 Page Back  Current Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth