Home > BC Liberals, BC New Democrats > Pay Raises For Politicians: Is There A Better Way?

Pay Raises For Politicians: Is There A Better Way?

May 26, 2009

The issue of setting wages for politicians tends to be quite awkward, especially if it the politicians themselves setting their wage.

After all, they obviously benefit personally from any raises. But complicating the matter, there is also the ability to score political points for opposing a pay raises. Unfortunately, those political points tend to be lost when the politicians that were opposing the wage increase decide to take it.

This happened to Reform, and is currently happening to the BC New Democrat MLAs, who have decided to take the 2007 pay raises that they protested so loudly and gave to charity.

But is there a better way to handle pay raises for politicians? Is there a way to gain political points on the issue without having to back down and look like idiots later. I think there is.

The next time there is a controversy over pay raises, the following proposals, to be enacted when the party gets into government, might be a better way to handle it:

  1. Prohibit pay raises from taking effect until the next term of office. To a certain degree, it might separate the need to ensure that wages for politicians are set while removing personal considerations.
  2. Create a Citizen’s Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, with the majority of the members being randomly selected citizens and a minority of members represents sectors such as business, labour, and education. Give them the power to set wages for politicians. An example of such a Citizen’s Commission exists in Washington State. (H/T: Paying Attention)

In this manner, there is a way to make sure that politicians are compensated for their work while avoiding the whole “pigs at the trough” image with the public.

  1. May 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Two good proposals. I would add a third, fairly easy one: index the salaries to inflation. If we can agree on a base rate that is not too high and not too low, then adjusting that figure annually for inflation ensures that it remains appropriate and doesn’t need to be tinkered with.

  2. May 26, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Oh, I’d also like to add another thought, which is tangentially related. The argument that is normally raised in favour of pay increases is that they are necessary to attract/retain people who might otherwise seek private sector work for higher compensation. I would suggest that low pay does not make elected office less attractive, it simply attracts a different type of person. High salaries attract those interested primarily in money, while low salaries attract those interested primarily in serving their province/country and implementing good public policy.

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