State lawmakers are due to get a 5.3% pay raise effective January 1, 2009, boosting their yearly salary to 49,943 a year. State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer (D-Manitowoc) has already said he’s going to give back his pay raise, and shortly after Rep. Ziegelbauer’s announcement, a few other legislators followed suit in announcing they too would give back their pay raises. While Ziegelbauer’s announcement is largely symbolic, given that he also earns roughly $71,000 a year as Manitowoc County Executive, it’s still a sign that some legislators understand that they don’t deserve a raise at a time when Wisconsin’s economy is going through some difficult times.
Not among those who announced they were giving back their 3.5% pay raise was State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), who was one of only a few lawmakers who voted against approving labor contracts for thousands of state employees, citing the costs of those contracts (emphasis mine):
At a time when Wisconsin continues to struggle with high rates of taxing and spending, a looming structural deficit of over $1.6 billion, high gas and food prices, and per capita income below the national average, hard-working families in the private sector expect state government to exercise fiscal responsibility.
The state Senate is being asked to approve state contracts that according to data I requested from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau would be greater than the increase required for a QEO (Qualified Economic Offer).
The biennial QEO increase amount would be 7.74 percent. Proposed state employment contract increases over the 2007-09 biennium range from 8.0 percent at the low end to 11.0 percent at the high end.
Many workers across the state struggling to pay their bills and our high taxes can only dream of such increases.
This is an inappropriate time to be offering contract increases beyond the rate of the QEO and beyond the rate of inflation. I voted against the contracts.
First, I’d like to make it clear the contracts that were ultimately approved for most state employees mandated a 5% total raise spread out over three fiscal years. As a state employee, my pay increased 2% last year, and it will increase 1% this year and 2% next year. That’s a 5% pay increase over three years, just a little less than the 5.3% State Senator Lazich will receive this year alone.
So as State Senator Lazich wrote – if she in fact was the author of the blog entry I linked to – “At a time when Wisconsin continues to struggle with high rates of taxing and spending, a looming structural deficit of over $1.6 billion, high gas and food prices, and per capita income below the national average, hard-working families in the private sector expect state government to exercise fiscal responsibility.” As a hardworking taxpayer, I do expect my state government – which includes legislators like State Senator Mary Lazich – to exercise fiscal responsibility, and I expect them to start by showing a little less hypocrisy. If a 5% pay raise for state employees over three years is too rich for Sen. Lazich’s tastes, then surely her own 5.3% raise in one year is too rich as well. I expect to see State Senator Lazich forgo her raise for the upcoming fiscal year, because anything less would be fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical.