Monday, December 10, 2012

A pay raise for local officials? Say it ain't so!

You'd think that local elected officials would realize that asking for a pay raise in this economy - and when local governments are asking for money (additional taxes) or laying off workers, or both - was a stuck-on-stupid idea. Apparently not.

Gongwer Ohio recently had a blurb about exactly that - and during a lame-duck session no less!

They reported that Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, was pushing for a proposal to give state and local elected officials a cost-of-living increase. Under his plan, it wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2014 and would only be issued if the legislature put enough money in the next biennial budget to cover it.

Regular pay raises would be limited to 3% or the consumer price index, whichever is less, and would be contingent on next year's budget, he said in an interview. "If that happens, then the raises for the countywide officials and so forth would be allowed to go into effect. If it doesn't, it wouldn't."

Sen. Seitz noted that legislators, judges, county commissioners, sheriffs, prosecutors and other elected officials have seen no increase in their pay since January 2008.

Aw...poor babies!

I seem to recall that most elected officials are not eligible for a raise during their existing four-year terms. So the fact that these privileged individuals haven't had a raise during this current term isn't something to bemoan, nor is it justification for claiming no increase since 2008.

But it's not a raise...because surely if we call it something else, it won't sound so terrible to people who've been without a job for months!

"This is not a raise, this is a cost-of-living," he said.

"If you don't think the cost of gasoline, hotels and everything else hasn't gone up in the last five years, you're wrong. And if we don't do something, it'll be another four years," he said, noting the Ohio Constitution prevents public officials, with the exception of judges, from getting a raise during the term to which they are elected.

"So if we do not act, it will be nine years with zero increase," Sen. Seitz said.

Oh - what a shame! Perhaps if they go nine years without a raise they'll have some idea what their constituents who have to pay for these raises feel like!

And what does the price of hotels have to do with government pay?!? Don't most people talk about food and gasoline and heating costs when they want to give an example of everyday living expenses?

Maybe hotels are part of Seitz's everyday living - who knows?

There are two critical points Seitz seems to overlook or outright ignore:

1) The extra money for increases in pay, regardless of what you call it, has to come from somewhere so either the public has to pay more or they have to go without something already provided in order to divert existing funds to the increase.

2) The reason many of the costs are going up is because of actions by these same people who now think they deserve even MORE pay for adding to our daily costs!

When Ohio's General Assembly mandates certain insurance coverages, insurance companies raise their costs and we pay.

When Ohio's General Assembly mandates that our energy companies get an ever-growing portion of their product from so-called 'green' sources - which cost a ton more than what they're paying for so-called non-green sources - they pass along those costs to us and we pay more.

When local elected officials spend limited tax dollars on things like art and swimming pools, they divert money from key governmental functions like road repair and safety - and then want more money to cover their 'essential' services, putting levy requests on the ballot and rising the cost of property taxes or income taxes, resulting in us - the public - having less money and paying more to local businesses who pass along those increases in the prices they charge.

Seitz - and the local electeds who want a pay increase - are either completely out of touch with the consequences of their own actions or they don't care.

Fortunately, it appears that leadership in the General Assembly isn't so enthusiastic:

Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) said he was aware of the proposal, but stressed that no legislation is currently before the chamber.

"There have been conversations...emails and letters of support from local elected officials and judges asking us to consider something along the lines of like a cost-of-living increase and making that conditional on (funding) being approved in the next budget, but there's no legislation on that right now," he said.

Sen. Niehaus said he planned to talk about the issue with his caucus.

"I think it is appropriate to talk about the issue because it has been probably four years since there has been any type of an increase. But I'm still very mindful of the fact that there are still many people in Ohio who are unemployed and would like to have any job and there are many others who have not seen any increases in many years," he said.

"So I don't think our elected officials, whether they be at the state or local level, are in any different situation than the people we represent," he added.

Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) was even less enthusiastic about the proposal.

"My caucus has very, very grave reservations," he said.

Hmm...wonder who has been sending emails and letters of support? Maybe public records requests are in order so we can put names to these local electeds who think they're not paid enough already.

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