Elected Officials’ Salary Should Not Be Increased

On Sunday, we asked whether elected officials should receive pay raises.

Today, we answer our own question with a resounding no.

Legislators at Monday’s Administrative Services Committee meeting deserve credit for voting against pay increases for county legislators. The committee also voted against proposed pay raises for the sheriff, which has received increases over the past 13 years. And, it’s good that legislators admit the 28.8 percent increases proposed by the Salary Review Commission for the county clerk and county executive weren’t appropriate. Instead, committee members approved increase of 17.6 percent for the county executive and 17 percent for the county clerk.

“There’s not been a change in the salary of county executive or county clerk in 20 years,” said Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott. “I support that change for those people. Let’s move into the 21st century for those people, let’s get real here.”

Legislator Tarbrake is right – it’s time to get real.

The reality is there will be candidates for sheriff, county executive and county clerk regardless of whether or not the positions receive raises. Races for those three positions are rarely uncontested because the candidate wouldn’t earn enough. The races are typically uncontested because people think they can’t beat a longtime incumbent.

The reality of the 21st century is that most county residents don’t get cost-of-living increases – particularly a one-shot, 17 percent cost of living increase. Most people concerned about cost of living also aren’t earning more than $50,000 a year, and they certainly don’t earn $85,000 a year. The argument for cost of living increases makes more sense when it is made on behalf of a senior citizen on a poverty-level income or from a working family for whom the cost of living increase can make the difference between paying the bills or not. It makes less sense coming from a legislator arguing for pay increases for elected officials whose salary allows them to live comfortably.

At a time when the County Legislature should be spending its time eliminating spending in the budget and finding ways to deliver tax cuts, it is instead spending its time deciding how to increase spending.

Time to get real, indeed.