Save the Money, I’ll Legislate for FREE!

With the budget crisis looming, Sen. Steinberg has called for legislators to cut their salary, and many are or are about to:

Official letters are starting to roll in — two so far — from state senators answering the call to sacrifice during a time of fiscal crisis and volunteer for a 5 percent pay cut.

As of this afternoon, the State Controller’s Office, which issues legislators’ paychecks, reported receiving letters from two senators: Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa. (SacBee 6/18/09)

Hats off to Sens. Corbett and Wiggins on getting their letters in on time.  Considering that state workers are taking furloughs and the related pay cuts, legislative self-cuts probably should have happened in February. But, I have an offer  for the people of California that is really too good to refuse: I’ll legislate for FREE.  

You don’t have to worry about paying me a cent.  Now, I will go ahead and have a consulting company.  I hope you won’t mind when I work for Polluters, Inc. while I’m legislating. It’s completely unrelated, I assure you. And while I’m too busy working on the big OilCo account, I’ll have my staff take care of the work at the office. Don’t worry, you didn’t elect them, but they are really great people.  And my friend, Joe Lobbyist, will be letting me know all the details of all the bills coming up for vote.  He’s really a great guy, that Joe. Always looking out for the people of California.  You can count on that, because it’s the slogan of his lobbying firm.

While I kid, the troubling thing is that this is a real issue.  Heck, there is a part-time legislature ballot proposal working its way through the system as we speak.

Listen, I grew up in Texas, which has a part-time Legislature.  It didn’t work. It created ridiculous conflicts of interest.  My own house representative growing up was an insurance broker. Surprisingly, he voted to block insurance regulations over and over again. In Austin, Democrat Dawnna Dukes has pillaged the state for contracts for her siblings and her consulting company.

What you get with a volunteer legislative body is exactly what you pay for. You get conflicted, greedy, and corrupt legislators, mixed in with some well-meaning leaders who have to be independently wealthy in order to dedicate their time to the job.  It locks all but the rich out of the system, and nets some crazy stuff that we really don’t want here.

I get that people are frustrated with the Legislators. And for good reason, we are in the midst of a crisis. But, by and large, they are a product of the system.  We cannot scapegoat them for our own failures. We give them an unworkable system and tell them to produce miracles. It simply cannot happen without the systemic change that California voters seem reluctant to grant.  

We have met the enemy and he is us.

  –   Walt Kelly, cartoonist and creator of Pogo

UPDATE: More senators took the cut.

3 thoughts on “Save the Money, I’ll Legislate for FREE!”

  1. But I deeply appreciate Senator Wiggins volunteering for the 5% cut. She is my senator, and our teachers did the same – though they are paid far less than her.

    Hmm, maybe what we should do is sell ad space on teacher clothing. Like Stephen Colbert suggested for politicians, a la NASCAR.

  2. Brian, you found a lot of things wrong with volunteer legislators.  Funny thing, I find the same list applies to salaried legislators.  How do you tell the difference?

    For one, the good ones listen. See McNerney’s outreach to his district on health care.

    Unfortunately for CA, I have not seen Monning or Maldonado do the same.  

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