The economy, the stock market, the credit markets, retail, real estate, you name it and the word “uncertain” can be stamped in front of it as an apt adjective. And this year, most politicians only wish their approval ratings among voters were as high as they were a few years ago, which is to say, still dismal, but better than today.
In the face of this, why do I agree with Proposition 300, which would raise the salary paid Arizona state legislators from $24,000 to $36,000 a year?
Because it’s part of a two-step process to bring new blood, new ideas and new brains to the state Capitol:
First, you vote out incumbents who have been part of the problem. Second, you bring into office a type of newcomer seen in too few numbers in the Legislature: middle-class people who today can’t afford to serve in what has become a nearly full-time job of lawmaker.
(Full disclosure: I am the lone member of the Tribune Editorial Board with this view. The majority agreed that the newspaper officially opposes Proposition 300.)
Unfortunately, most voters will decide this question instead on other arguments. The most prevalent: Voting no sends a message of disgust to current legislators regarding their performance in office, punishing them somehow.
Well, too many of them have comfortable sources of income that make the $24K they currently earn little more than a second paycheck and not a first one.
We won’t dislodge any of them from their entrenched ideologies by refusing to set a higher pay rate.
No, the only people voters will be sending a message to by voting “no” are on the outside, those from the middle class who might just bring a refreshing set of values and perspectives to the state House or state Senate.
Another popular reason to reject raising legislative salaries is that in these times, taxpayers can’t afford to spend any more money on anything.
Mathematically, at a rate of state government spending that the Goldwater Institute quotes as $888 per second, the $1.08 million it would require to pay Proposition 300’s $12,000-per-legislator raise is spent a little less than every 20 minutes.
So the amount needed will have been spent by the time you’re finished reading today’s Tribune. Snap. Gone. Any savings will do nothing to help anyone’s taxes.
But it can do something if it is approved, which is allow more middle-class people to seek to be a legislator.
Again, this plan requires more than merely raising the pay rate. It requires voters to do something we all say we’re going to do but only do a tiny percentage of the time: Oust incumbents who haven’t earned the pay we’ve been giving them.
Are we ready to do that?
Contact Tribune columnist and editorial writer Mark J. Scarp at (480) 970-2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.