Paying our public servants

A modest bump in annual salary for the state Legislature is in order.

Editorial board

 

Money should be the last reason a lawmaker, or anyone in government, decides to go into public service. A job that provides the opportunity to directly improve the lives of citizens should be its own reward, and taxpayers should not be expected to pay for exuberant salaries like that of a CEO in the private sector, even if the jobs are equally difficult.

However, there are limits to how little we can pay our public officials without seeing diminishing returns in the quality of work they are able to produce. Members of the Minnesota House and Senate are expected to travel across the state, meeting with constituents and the media, keep up with complex issues and work to pass legislation, in addition to their obligations as spouses and parents. They are expected to do this all with the measly sum of $31,140 a year.

The state Compensation Council is trying to change that and is recommending that the annual salary of state legislators be increased from $31,140 to $40,890 in 2015, MinnPost reported last month. The salary increase would be the first since 1999.

Even including the additional money made through per-diem expense payments, state lawmakers make considerably less than similar positions in the state. Minneapolis City Council members receive $80,345, MinnPost reported.

The long delay in a pay raise isn’t surprising. An attack ad aimed at an incumbent who voted to raise his or her own salary could almost write itself. But we can’t expect legislators to fulfill all their duties with such little compensation.

The council also recommended that pay be tied to the salary of the governor in the future. This is a practical measure, which would help avoid making annual salaries a political issue. State lawmakers and their constituents should support the council’s modest proposals.