A good pair of articles (links via Combest) recently discussed the increase (or lack thereof) in pay raises for state officials. While legislators were denying themselves and judges a pay raise, the governor’s office had a mixed result. Some positions saw an increase, while others saw a decrease. Overall, though, there was an increase. A few legislators proposed an amendment to give a raise to judges while excluding themselves, but this was struck down.
I’ve always thought that the pay of elected officials and their staff is a tricky subject. On one hand, you want to ensure that you attract the “best and the brightest,” so that the taxpayers are getting good government. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend more of the taxpayers’ money than necessary in order to have a good working government. I realize that the combination of someone being brilliant and also willing to accept what is normally a substantially lower salary than they might receive elsewhere is a rarity. The people who fit this description are usually driven by a sense of service and duty to the state.
Salaries in the governor’s office are up $21,757, and by rejecting their 4-percent cost-of-living increase, the state legislature “saved” the taxpayers $234,165.80 according to my calculations ($35,915 x .04 x 163). That is a fairly substantial savings, in my book. Additionally, by rejecting pay raises for associate circuit judges, they saved the state $289,500 (193 x $1,500). Overall, there was a “savings” of $501,908.80 ($234,165.80 + $289,500 – $21,757). The cynical part of me understands that the legislature needed to make a political move, because voting for a pay raise — even if it is a cost-of-living increase — can be political suicide, but it is a good move nonetheless.
While I’m on the subject of pay raises for judges, it seems that a modest increase of $1,500 per judge won’t be enough to make an actual difference for either cost of living or recruitment away from the private sector, so the fact that this didn’t pass is a good thing. Additionally, the judges just received a pay raise in July, up to $$109,366. So, a new increase from $109,366 to $110,866 doesn’t seem all that enticing. This decision to let each of the 5,842,713 people in Missouri keep their average of $0.90 (443,367.35 ÷ 5,842,713) is a good thing. Yes, I know that not each one of those people pays taxes, but you get my point).
So, that’s just my $0.02.