Legislative salaries redux

House and Senate conferees will continue talks at 8 p.m. today on HB 575 to extend a 5 percent cut on legislative salaries from the current June 30 expiration date until Dec. 31, 2013.

Meantime, our longtime contributor Charles added a comment to my Monday post on the subject criticizing me for not mentioning arguments in defense of the Legislature’s 36 percent pay raise in 2009.

I doubt many were still following the thread by time Charles posted his comment, so to be fair to the other side, I’ll put him in prime time:

David conveniently forgets everytime he mentions the raises that legislators went without any raises for 12 years; a period when I dare say everyone working in Hawaii (including David and me) got raises.

Now if during that time, David wrote a column complimenting legislators for not having a raise when everyone else was, I missed it and maybe he can provide a link to it.

For me, I don’t know what is “fair” in terms of compensation for legislators but I have two observations:

1. Many claim it’s a cruise job getting paid almost five large ones for four months of work. Does anyone truly believe that all legislators simply close their doors at the end of session and then open back up the day session opens the following year?

2. If it’s such a cruise job, it’s puzzling why there are so few takers.

Again, it is true that the salary commission recommended a 36% pay raise for legislators (and it must be noted far bigger raises, dollarwise, for the executive branch and judges). And if David wants to continue to raise this fact ad nauseum, go for it. But to never mention that they went without raises for a long time to put it in context seems that David wants to make a point rather than be accurate.

That said, it’s his blog and his right to be inaccurate by omission.

I’ll give him the last word on the bulk of his argument (for now, anyway), but a couple of points of clarification:

• My problem wasn’t so much with the amount of the 2009 raise, but its timing in the worst recession in state history when lawmakers were demanding sacrifices from everybody else. No matter how entitled they felt, the only true leadership is by example.

• Alas, I wasn’t getting raises as Charles assumes in the years legislators went without. My pay for my newspaper column remains the same as when I first contracted to do it 12 years and three newspapers ago.

Frankly, I’m just grateful to be one of the few of my contemporaries still in print journalism — and still having fun at it.

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8 Comments on “Legislative salaries redux”

  1. Michael Says:

    Not my legislature still have their jobs while they try to raise taxes from those who are without.
    Assuming 5% of $45,000 is $2,250 and may equal to the pay of a regular full time job per month, worker just got laid off.

  2. Teddy Freddy Says:

    Hawaii Free Press? Are you kidding? Anyone who believes anything they write or publish (if you could call it that), must already be a bonefide member of the Sam Slom Teabag Remembrance Society. You don’t get much more wingnutty or much more venomous than the Hawaii Free Press. Reminds me about our fello nutty buddy Rush who once said “Well it could be true.”

  3. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Teddy~
    The source document was from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The data seemed to indicate that Hawaii was indeed the highest paid part-time group.

    Do you have other data? Is there a better link? Is the information incorrect?

  4. David Shapiro Says:

    I felt the Hawaii Free Press piece was fair comment because it had links at the bottom to the original data from the National Conference of State Legislatures for anybody to look at and offer an alternate analysis if they have one.

  5. Teddy Freddy Says:

    This is the typical MO of HFP. They take statements that may in fact have substance and then twist their logic around it giving credence to the rest of the garbage they publish – example is this paragraph contained within the same story “Hawaii is confronting a $1.23 Billion budget shortfall due to declining tax revenues caused by the Obama recession. While legislators enjoy their new-found wealth, state employees are being asked to accept salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. Taxpayers are ordered to dig deeper.” Just because a “news source” may on occassion contain credible information does not mean it is a credible news source. You can dress up the HFP in all kinds of clothes and put on lipstick too, but it is what it is which is a vitrolic rag that is often/always filled with half truths, rumour and innuendo (extra heavey on the innuendo). No public good can come out of giving them any further credibility at all.

  6. David Shapiro Says:

    Freddy, I don’t disagree with some of what you say about HFP, but you’re engaging in the same kind of ad hominem diatribe you accuse them of — anonymously, no less. I’m not seeing how this leaves you deserving of any more credibility than you give them. Nor am I seeing from your argument where the HCSL numbers they cite are not legit.

  7. charles Says:

    In response to David’s clarifications:

    For someone who claims it’s not about the amount but the timing of the raise, I wonder why that 36% number is cited time and time and time again. (Indeed, while the original raise was 36%, a five percent reduction was enacted. David is silent on this point.) Also, the salary commission’s recommendations took effect on July 1, 2007 for the executive branch and judges. The legislative increases took effect 18 months later on January 1, 2009 since the commission felt that legislators shouldn’t get raises until after the 2008 elections.

    Is David’s point that the legislators should’ve gotten their raises at the same time when the economy was better like the governor and judges but then should not have gotten them when the economy soured? If so, it’s never been mentioned.

    Go to http://hawaii.gov/hrd/information/HRDInfoCentral/ReportsCentral/CommissionOnSalReport and you can see the entire report. Over the seven year span of the salary recommendations, legislative salaries were slated to go up almost $22,000. In contrast, during the same time period, the Governor’s salary increases by almost $32,000, the Lt. Gov. by over $40,000, the chief justice by almost $69,000, etc. Why doesn’t David take umbrage at that?

    An interesting tidbit in that report: If legislative salaries had kept pace with collective bargaining increases over the period from 1993 to January 1, 2007, the current legislative salary would be $53,495 or 33% greater than the current salary of $35,900. In other words, government employees received an increase of 33% in their salaries when legislators got none.

    (If you really want to emphasize the selectiveness of David’s argument, it can also be questioned why he has never taken our congressional delegation to task. From the president to the congress, they continue to collect their salaries without any reduction at all. Members of Congress get $174,000 with automatic COLA increases every year.)

    David points out that he hasn’t gotten a raise in twelve years. Actually, he should calculate the time period from 1993-2005 when legislators went without a pay raise. That was 17 years ago. I find it hard to believe when he was a working journalist putting in a forty-hour week that he didn’t get raises.

    Lastly, lest anyone thinks I’m defending the notion of more money for politicians, I have no idea what would be a fair salary. I agree with an earlier post that said even if legislators were paid even more, I wouldn’t do it. And given the paucity of candidates in most races, the general public seems to agree with me.


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