Is legislative pay cut about balancing the budget, or is it crass politics?


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One of the big items up for discussion in the budget conference committee is whether to implement a five percent pay cut on legislators to demonstrate that they are sharing in the sacrifices required in these tough fiscal times. The reality of the proposal is that it will not help solve the current budget crisis for two reasons: it won’t raise much money and it won’t take effect for two years.

The Senate inserted the measure, much to the dismay of the House Speaker, who said his members “deserve” what they are paid (which ranges from $60,000 up to $95,000, for a part-time job). In reality, the best this General Assembly can do is cut the pay of the next General Assembly in two years, which many of them will no longer occupy. That’s because the Constitution prohibits a legislature from passing a law to change its own pay. And with only 132 members making $60K a year, a 5% cut only generates a tiny drop in the budget in a budget gap ranging in the $billions.

So did the Senate really do this to make a symbolic gesture showing they are in it with us and know how hard it is to get by with less? That’s the charitable interpretation. I hardly ever write about politics (mostly because I tend to be clueless), but I wanted to share a theory on why this is more about winning elections than it is about sharing the pain of struggling Ohioans. The budget is going to pass along party lines. Every Democrats in the legislature is going to vote against it. So the Republicans are thinking: what can we put in the budget that Democrats will look bad opposing? And thus the legislative pay cut amendment was devised.

Look for campaign ads next year at this time along the lines of: “Even when Ohioans were suffering and unemployment skyrocketed, Representative X voted against cutting his own pay.” I know I cannot wait.

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3 Comments

  1. But Capri Cafaro said to the newspaper that her caucus submitted the amendment to do this. So….what’s the deal with that?

    • That could be true. Senator Wilson actually introduced a bill earlier in the year that never got any hearings. I’m not saying the Rs are putting the provision in the bill against the will of the Ds or to punish them (though some members of the caucus strongly oppose it), I’m just saying that at the end of the day, most if not all will vote AGAINST the budget, so to also make that a vote against a pay cut will be helpful at a later date.

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