Now isn't time for pay hikes for elected officials
If any state lawmakers were looking forward to getting a pay raise, they were disappointed this week.
An appointed commission is assigned to look at the pay of certain elected officials in the state every two years to determine whether they need to be increased. Most of the recommended increases go to the Legislature for approval, but pay increases for state lawmakers have to be approved by the voters.
Gov. Jan Brewer suggested to the commission that the pay of lawmakers — currently at $24,000 a year — should be increased, along with the pay for the office of governor.
The four commissioners have yet to vote on the increase for governor and other elected positions, but did vote this week to reject sending a lawmaker pay hike to voters this fall. The commissioners were split on the issue, with some wanting voters to at least get a chance to decide while others said it was a bad idea from the get-go.
We do actually think there is merit to the idea of giving lawmakers a modest pay increase. While the session only lasts for several months each year — making lawmakers “part-timers” — the reality is they must devote more time than that to their positions.
During the off-session time they continue to work with constituents and are involved with issues that will be taken up by the Legislature. There are also meetings and sometimes special sessions outside the regular term. It can be time-consuming, especially for those who live outside the Phoenix area and must travel there for meetings.
But Arizona voters have been reluctant to give them a raise. The last time they did so was in 1998, and they have turned them down five other times since then.
It would be particularly bad to ask for a raise at this time when Arizona continues to be in the economic doldrums. Many taxpayers have suffered due to the bad economy and they won't be in the mood to give lawmakers a pay hike.
In fact, it would be a good idea for the governor to ask for a postponement of any pay increases for elected officials until the economy improves.