By BRYAN GRAY
It seems ironic that in the season we are discussing the need to raise the federal minimum wage for low-paid cooks and laborers, a recommendation has also been made to dramatically increase the pay for Utah’s political elite.
Good luck to the fast-food cook who asks for a $1.25 per hour wage hike when Utah’s governor, without even asking, may get a $40,100 pay raise. Guess which one has the better chance of fattening his wallet!
Under the recommendations of the Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission, Gov. Herbert’s salary could jump from $109,900 to $150,000 per year, and the lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, and treasurer would receive an increase from their present $104,400 to $142,500.
In the big financial picture, the extra money ($192,500) will not topple the state’s finances (although one can only wonder what $192,500 would do to help feed the homeless, buy socks for poverty-stricken children or purchase medicine for those kicked off the Medicaid roles.)
But the problem I do have with the raises is the silly rationale. According to David Bird, the vice chairman of the compensation committee, “We’re fearful that some people who are not independently wealthy can’t afford to serve.” Furthermore, commission chairman Roger Tew said the raises are due because every department head in the executive branch is paid more than the governor, along with more than 20 mayors.
Let’s be honest...Men and women don’t run for major state offices due to the paycheck.
Most experienced attorneys will earn much more in their private or big firm practice than they would in the current $104,400 berth as state attorney general.
However, that didn’t stop a handful of applicants applying to the Republican State Central Committee last week to replace John Swallow. And let’s be real...an average Joe carrying a sack lunch or working in a warehouse is not going to run for governor, even if the pay is increased.
The pay isn’t the driving force; it’s the office and the power and respect that come with it. Mitt Romney would have taken a brutal pay cut if elected as U.S. President, but it didn’t stop him from spending three years pursuing the presidency.
Honestly, the pay for the governor could be $1 per year and we would still see a long line of Utahns hoisting their credentials and forming campaign committees.
We already see politicians spending millions of dollars to be elected to seats paying $200,000; there is no link between the pay check and the urge to become a senator, a congressman, and, yes, even a state auditor.
Advocates for the poor tell daily stories of poverty-stricken adults and children who have fallen through the economic safety net. Food stamps have been cut, health care has been sliced, and in Salt Lake County there is now a five-year wait for apartments through the Housing Authority.
Considering the real needs of our most vulnerable citizens, you won’t find me crying for any elected official who somehow has to make ends meet on more than $100,000 a year. If you can shed a tear for them, you are a better person than I.