OUR OPINION: Not again

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

A lot of people in government are talking pay raise these days.

Take Congress, where the cost of living increases come around like clockwork. When our hard working elected officials head back to Capital Hill Tuesday, they’ll be enjoying an annual automatic 2.8 percent pay increase. That’s one thing they won’t have to sweat when the floor debates turn ugly, or the afternoon is booked solid with lobbyist meetings.

For elected representatives, pay is a sensitive subject. Automatic raises for congressmen have never had many fans in the general public. Apparently the failure of the economy, and the hand Congress has had while watching over the meltdown, has riled a few more taxpayers than usual this year.

If so many people are today worried about keeping their jobs, or paying their bills, or hanging on to their houses, it stands to reason our elected officials in Washington are hearing about it.

They ought not to accept the cost of living raise in this year of America’s economic discontent. The raise is automatic, but can be voted down by members of the House and Senate.

The first order of business when Congress returns this week should to vote down the cost of living raise. In doing so, voters will see that the collective elected bodies are still capable of making correct decisions and deserving of support as they tackle the nation’s economic problems.

In Louisiana last year voters laid siege to the legislature and newly elected Gov. Bobby Jindal, demanding that Jindal veto the raise legislators voted themselves, until he came around and did just that.

Given the current state of the local, state, national and global economies, you might think other elected officials and unionized state employees would hold off a while before asking for more money in the form of compensation and pay raises.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, as the Louisiana state teachers union is calling for a more than $2,000 a year raise for its members. Teachers are deserving of more pay, but we find it hard to believe much thought was given to requesting the raise in this year of state budget cutbacks and overall economic uncertainty.

Isn’t this the year for rescuing the economy, building it back up? We have yet to view a viable plan to restore economic strength to America which includes pay raises for elected officials and state workers. Giving anyone in an elective position or a taxpayer funded job a pay raise at this time will do nothing more than upset those affected by the economic hard times who cannot vote themselves a raise.

At its Jan. 15 meeting the Parish Finance Committee will again consider a proposal by Council Chairman Pat Bell to grant a mileage allowance for parish council members.

While councilmen may or may not be deserving of mileage allowances, and the committee itself is split over whether this is the case, the timing of the request is the issue. Were taxpayers not so stressed over the state of the economy, would anyone be concerned about mileage reimbursements for council members? We really don’t think so.

Nor do we think this is the time for anyone in government to receive a raise or additional compensation of any sort.