Editorial: Lawmaker pay pitch intriguing

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

As the 16 members of the state’s newly formed legislative pay council sat down to start their work this month, they were confronted with an intriguing proposition.

The council, formed after Minnesota voters overwhelmingly approved putting legislative pay decisions in the hands of a citizens’ council, was approached by an Edina resident who suggested including performance bonuses in the pay structure. The pitch’s suggested goal was to end party polarization by creating an incentive to write bills that would pass with a super majority.

As we said, it’s an intriguing proposition, but it’s also one rife with implementation issues in a system where the controlling party will always have an advantage.

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That said, perhaps such a discussion could send a message to those lawmakers who clearly don’t understand the wasteful repercussions of creating bills that won’t be — can’t be — passed.

Rather than offering incentives to do the work at hand, perhaps the legislative pay council could consider a point system, potentially taking into account those lawmakers who constantly take up legislative staff members’ time while clearly pandering to partisan efforts, rather than seeking common ground. Under such a system, lawmakers like Duane Quam and Steve Drazkowski, who continue fear-mongering tactics by pitching so-called bathroom bills would lose points, and potentially shift part of their salaries to lawmakers willing work toward changing the culture in St. Paul and actually getting their jobs done on time.

Granted, with current annual salaries of $31,140, most state representatives and senators likely aren’t in it for the money, but we all know the sting of a pay cut for failing to do one’s job. Based on last year’s efforts, the state could have substantially boosted its coffers, since most lawmakers could have ended up heading home with “will work for food” signs.

Unfortunately, it’s not a realistic proposal for a variety of reasons, but the lack of change at the Legislature and the obvious tone-deaf nature of some lawmakers demonstrate the potential need to find radical suggestions that send a message.

— Rochester Post-Bulletin, Jan. 31

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