Elected officials need to tighten their own belts
Hernando TodayThe issue: Elected officials' salaries.
Published: March 19, 2010
Published: March 19, 2010
Our opinion: Cut them.
Hernando Countians are suffering from the second worst unemployment rate in the state. Moms and dads have lost their jobs. Families have lost their homes. Nearly 16 percent of the workforce, not including those who are underemployed or have given up, are out of work with little hope of finding a good job.
Those fortunate to have jobs haven't seen raises in two years or more and have lost income because of higher health insurance costs and reduced working hours. Trying to save money for retirement has been put on the back burner. Most are just getting by.
It's been brutal.
Except for our elected officials.
While the rest of us are suffering in this dreadful economy, elected officials' wages have actually climbed and their benefits have increased.
Is that nuts or what? Where did lawmakers get the idea that they were entitled to such largess, and why hasn't the electorate risen up to put an end to this?
We demand leadership.
We demand that our elected officials start this coming budget year by significantly cutting their own salaries and benefits.
If that takes an act of the Legislature, then our representatives in Tallahassee better start submitting bills to cut the fat out of elected officials' salaries and benefits.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee can start with their own. Twenty percent right off the top would be a good start.
Some state lawmakers apparently think school board members are overpaid. We couldn't agree more. The state Senate Education Appropriations Committee last week recommended limiting school board members' salaries to $29,000 - the same as legislators. The measure would save about $1.5 million to the $22.4 billion state education budget.
It's not much, but it's a start.
That would equate to about a $4,000 pay cut for school board members here in Hernando County.
Another question: Why should taxpayers contribute to elected officials' retirement? Let them save for their own retirement like the rest of us.
As for health insurance and other benefits, those should be reserved for those who serve in full-time positions, carrying out the actual work of the government entity, not to those who meet every other week for a few hours to set policy or attend some social functions.
Serving on a school board should be an honor and a matter of public service. Board members should be compensated for their time on a per diem formula. There should be no salary and benefits.
The same should go for county commissioners. In Hernando County, our commissioners are paid more than $61,000 plus benefits, which include health insurance and pension contributions. One county commissioner hauls in about $85,000 a year in salary and benefits.
That's obscene. It's out of control.
One of the biggest problems with government is how much elected officials gorge off the taxpayers' trough. Like one Hernando County school board member said, it politicizes the process. Take away the money and much of the politics will leave as well.
Some argue that taking away the bloated salary and benefits that elected officials receive would keep good people from running for office.
Leaders would still seek those positions because they care and are concerned about the welfare of their communities and their families.
Show us an elected official who will go on the record saying he or she does the job because of the paycheck and benefits. We'll show you a person whose best interest lies with themselves and not their constituents - the taxpayers.
From Congress all the way down to local school board members and county commissioners, elected officials are paid too much and get far too many benefits that taxpayers can no longer afford. It puts them on a level above their constituency as if they are somehow more elite than the taxpayers footing the bill.
School board member James Yant said it best: "People need to run for the school board for reasons other than politics or pay and that would be the best thing for students."
Voters need to support candidates who will cut government, starting with their own pay and benefits. That will set the example for when other bloated government programs and unnecessary services are cut.
Let's start by cutting every elected official's salary by 20 percent and no longer contribute to health insurance and retirement payments. Let's bring government back to the real world.
Maybe once elected officials' salaries and benefits are cut, they won't have such a problem cutting bloated salaries and benefits of other government workers.
Cutting necessary services and raising fees is the wrong way to deal with plummeting property tax revenues in this economy. Making government the size taxpayers can afford will require cutting government spending.
Cutting salaries and benefits of elected officials would send the right message and set the example.