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Assemblyman Eric Linder

Want a Pay Raise? Have a Commission Give You One

[Publisher’s Note: We are pleased to feature this exclusive column from freshman Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona) – Flash]

Want a Pay Raise? Have a Commission Give You One
Assemblyman Eric Linder

Assemblyman Eric Linder

Show of hands: Who out there would like a pay raise?

Thought so.  Too bad you don’t work in the State Legislature, where you can get an “independent” commission to vote you a pay raise and gain a higher salary just for the asking.

This is the Capitol’s land of confusion, where the state’s perilous fiscal condition is, apparently, someone else’s problem.  Doing this, and doing it now reveals more about Sacramento and the way it thinks than all the material in the state archives.

Like millions of California couples, my wife and I both work.  We want to, but we also have to.  In addition to serving as an Assemblyman, I still own and run my company. When I’m home on the weekends, my wife works at a restaurant, and I get to watch our two small kids.  My oldest daughter is heading to college, so you can be sure we are budgeting every dollar these days.

But we’re typical, not special.  These are the choices and the challenges that Californians dutifully face every day.  And the common experience we all share is that if we want more, we have to earn more.  And to earn more, we have to work more.  No one will just give it to us.

Unless you’re in California government.

This isn’t about whether I or any other legislator could use a raise.  This is about whether the taxpayers should be giving us one, and the degree to which it undermines our credibility in the eyes of the public.

Admittedly, this year has seen some pleasant surprises.  The state economy has rallied and with it, the fiscal shape of the state government.  In addition, bipartisan majorities have come together to defeat new tax increases, stop assaults on Proposition 13, and throw back attempts to pre-empt vital energy exploration and development in the state.

We’re also working on the most massive overhaul of state education spending in a generation, that could set a reliable course for the future.  In my area, we’re opening the state’s first new medical school in years at U.C. Riverside, that will address Riverside county’s  dangerous shortage of healthcare professionals.

But we’ve only begun to do the things the people sent us here to do.  We didn’t put in overtime.  We haven’t broken new ground in creating governmental efficiencies that saved billions and warrant a bonus.

Government is still too large.  Businesses are still burdened by excessive regulations and the overzealous agencies that enforce them.  The Legislature continues to find new ways to encroach on people’s lives. And our almost incomprehensible unfunded pension liabilities remain ignored.

The point here is not to merely complain about legislators making a better living.  It is the disappointment of a truly revealing episode for the State Legislature and Sacramento’s perpetual sense of personal entitlement. Those of us granted the unique and special privilege of elective office must work a lot harder than this to maintain our sense of perspective.

And chances are we’ll have to.  This isn’t going to be well-received.  It’s going to be a scandal.  It will be another letdown, another time by a State Legislature with an approval rating lower than LeBron James in San Antonio.

Thanks but no thanks – I won’t be taking the raise, and I know that some of my colleagues won’t either. Together, I hope that we can send a message that we’re better than this.

There’s quite a bit of optimistic good feeling in Sacramento these days, some of which is warranted.  But our standing with the public is fragile and volatile. Accepting this undeserved pay increase could well be the most expensive money any of us will ever take.