Friday, July 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Salaries

In Texas you better have a good day job if you want to be a politician.

State legislators are paid meager salaries. Senators and representatives alike earn only $7,200 per year, or $14,400 for a two-year legislative period. Some may consider this salary generous, since after all legislators work only for 140 days over two years. However, this salary equals just slightly over $100 per day. Even if our legislators worked only eight hours per day, this would equal only $12.86 per hour for the people who make our state laws and conduct oversight of executive branch offices.

The San Antonio City Council makes even less.  According to the City of San Antonio Frequently Asked Questions page
Per Sections 6 and 9 of the City Charter, the Mayor receives as compensation of fifty dollars ($50.00) for each meeting attended while members of Council receive twenty dollars ($20.00) as compensation for each meeting attended.
But in Bell, California, a small blue collar town with a population of maybe 40,000 it pays to be a politician.  Each of their 5 council members is paid close to $100,000 a year for part time work.

Bell is one of the smallest towns in the country at only 2.5 square miles and 17% of its residents live in poverty.  So how did this tiny town end up with such well paid council members?  Most of them didn't vote.

In 2005 an election was held to set up a city charter, according to the Los Angeles Times, only 400 people voted (probably the city employees, the equivalent to our city manager makes over $700,000, almost twice as much as Sheryl Sculley.)
The highly paid members of the Bell City Council were able to exempt themselves from state salary limits by placing a city charter on the ballot in a little-noticed special election that attracted fewer than 400 voters.
This is why it's important to pay attention to all elections, not just the biggies.

Now I have to put a little plug in for paying legislators in Texas a higher salary.

  1. They work much more than just during the legislative session.
  2. Only wealthy people can afford to be legislators.
  3. If a politician isn't wealthy, he/she will be attractive bait for well endowed special interest groups.
It pays to pay attention and vote.

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