Vote 2014: Proposition 304, State Lawmaker Pay Raises

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Hear both sides of the argument on Proposition 304, a ballot measure that would give state lawmakers an $11,000 annual pay raise. Joe Kanefield of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers will speak in favor of the measure, while Brian Kaufman, also on the commission, will tell us why the measure should not be passed.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show begins with a debate, proposition 304 would give state legislators an $11,000 raise increasing annual pay to $35,000. The commission on salaries for elected state office has put the measure on the ballot. Joe Canefield who supports the pay raise, and Brian Kaufmann who is opposed to the measure. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: Joe, we'll start. What exactly -- is this exactly what it calls for, $11,000 a year?

Joe Canefield: That's it. A simple question voters will be asked to answer in November 4th in the general election to raise the annual pay.

Ted Simons: Our per deim allowances, are they changed at all?

Brian Kaufmann: That's not changed. Those are completely unrelated, they are set by the legislature and they are not going change at all.

Ted Simons: Why do lawmakers need an $11,000 a year raise.

Joe Canefield: First, let's talk about how hard our legislature works. This isn't the old days where they met for 109 days or less and went back to their jobs. When they are in session it's basically a full-time job. When they are not in session they are serving the needs of constituents and at events in the community. It's very difficult to carry on full-time employment outside of the legislature. It's not that we should be paying them a comprehensive salary, it's a reasonable sum of money to compensate them for their work.

Brian Kaufmann: I think it's a matter of expense to the state, and I just don't see the value there. If you multiply out the 90 legislators, you get $990,000 plus the pension, it's about $1.2 million. I think it's better spent on access, public safety, what have you.

Ted Simons: No raise since 1998, is that a good thing?

Brian Kaufmann: I'm not here to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. People have consistently voted it down. We haven't given them an opportunity to vote for it.

Ted Simons: The idea that this is not all that popular with the populace, is that taken into consideration?

Joe Canefield: I'm glad you brought that up. I think it's important to point that out. I don't think raise is the appropriate term to describe what the voters are being asked to vote on. Last time the salary was increased it was in 1998, to $24,000 a year. If you take inflation into consideration, we've been decreasing their salaries. I think the more appropriate term is restoration, I suppose, of what we should be paying. The voters agreed to pay them in 1998.

Ted Simons: Is this the best time considering the economy, what critics say or folks that haven't had a raise in a long time or even longer. Is it the best time to be asking for this?

Joe Canefield: Absolutely. The average single wage earner in Arizona makes $41,000. We're not paying them even at that rate. And the economy is improving. Last time the question was on the ballot was four years ago, 2008, the economy was doing very bad limit it was understandable the voters wouldn't support that. The most recent economic forecast says we have weathered the storm and this absolutely is the time to consider giving our legislators a raise.

Ted Simons: Back to the inflation adjustment. If you don't adjust since 1998, you're basically giving a pay cut every year.

Brian Kaufmann: You know, it's been up to the voters and they have voted no consistently. If they wanted to build in an inflationary adjustment, they could have done that in the statute.

Ted Simons: The idea that you get what you pay for, some folks are saying, you're not paying very much here. And you are saying you don't think it's quite worth it. Might it be worth it if you start to pay more?

Brian Kaufmann: I really don't buy the get what you pay for argument. It's legislators with policy positions. If we raise salaries, they are going to start agreeing more with the legislators? I don't think you're going to suddenly get more ethical people or what have you. We have fine legislators right now, other than people disagreeing with their policies.

Ted Simons: Could you broaden the pool of candidates if you raised the salary?

Brian Kaufmann: Maybe a little bit. We have a pretty broad pool right now. Yeah, I mean, yeah, I suppose you could broaden the pool. It's not going to lean toward better people or more people you would agree with policy wise.

Joe Canefield: But that's an important point. I think it's worth noting that we have some very fine men and women that serve in the Arizona Legislature. This is not a knock on them to suggest that we would get better legislators. But we will certainly increase the number of people willing to serve but for the financial circumstances they find themselves in. A lot of folks have to take into consideration whether they can serve their constituents while doing whatever it is they do, what they do to make a wage, it's not realistic these days.

Brian Kaufmann: It's going to be very hard to live on $24,000. I don't think a lot of these legislators do live on $24,000. I don't think we're seeing legislators live on that amount. They have successful businesses that run elsewhere. I don't think it's realistic to expect them to only live on their legislative salary.

Ted Simons: It was designed to be a part-time job; it's still designed to be a part-time job. If they can't give get their business done on time, should we be rewarding them with more salary?

Joe Canefield: We'd like to get them out of session in 100 days but that's not going to happen. There are incredibly important issues of safety, budget, health care, education, you name it. You expect them to do this important business in an expedited period of time; it's not going to happen. They get calls nights and weekends; they have been expected to attend events and appearances oftentimes at odd hours of the day. We pay -- a lot of state employees make a lot more money and they don't have nearly the money that we pay our legislators.

Brian Kaufmann: I'm not here to argue that for the work they do and the time they put in, that $24,000 is a fair salary if you were applying for a job in a business. I don't think running for the legislature is the same as applying for a job or getting paid for a job.

Ted Simons: The idea is there might be less temptation to take football tickets? $35,000 a year, if it's not that significant, they are not going take free football tickets or what have you, I don't buy that, no. Senator Don Shooter said gives us a raise and we'll buy our own tickets. You're not buying that? Okay, let's talk about that. Why wouldn't we give more money to some that seem eager to grab every free thing that comes along?

Joe Canefield: I don't think it would be appropriate to hold the body responsible for the actions of certain individuals. When we talk about the legislature as an institution, we obviously want the very best people to serve who aren't going succumb to those kinds of influences. Certainly paying them more might Guard against doing that. But I have confidence that's not what drives folks. I think legislators may be less likely to solicit contributions from lobbyists and others if they had a little more flexibility with respect to their personal financial situation. But having said that, I think it's about paying people a reasonable yet modest salary to do some very important work on behalf of constituents that they are elected to serve.

Ted Simons: You think there may be a temptation regarding lobbyists and other contributions? Do you think that applies?

Brian Kaufmann: People are going to take things under the table, they are going take as much as they can. They will be happy to get the $11,000 and continue what they are doing.

Ted Simons: In the grand scheme of things, we have people deciding major issues in the state. I think some folks would be surprised to know they get $24,000 a year. Again, back to the realistic, the real world aspect. Should they get a $5,000 raise? 6,000? 8,000?

Brian Kaufmann: We decided $11,000 was the amount to put. We could have done less. I don't think paying more at all right now is fiscally prudent.

Ted Simons: If paying more is the wise idea, why not make it 15 or 20?

Joe Canefield: The word I was looking for was an adjustment. This is an adjustment to make them whole. $35,000, an $11,000 adjustment puts them where they should be with you take into consideration inflation. The voters narrowly defeated the suggestion to raise it to $36,000. We've had some setbacks. We're back to where we should be and I think this is the appropriate time for voters to approve the increase.

Ted Simons: And you say no, correct?

Brian Kaufmann: I don't think it needs to be done.

Ted Simons: Thank you, appreciate it.

Joe Kanefield:Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers; Brian Kaufman:Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers;

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