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A JOB WORTHY OF PAY
May 16, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Every so often the Chautauqua County Legislature goes through its own self-loathing jihad. Legislators grumble about their numbers--25 is too many--7 to 15 might be just right. They went through a torturous period of self-flagellation over entitlement for county provided health insurance--the key word being entitlement.
The act of penance or atonement probably isn’t a bad practice for anyone but, our legislators latest attempt at self-mutilation is to forego all renumeration for their work as a legislator. Their rationale is just as goofy: If they reduce taxes, they get paid. I guess that is the new performance based outcome.
The other rationale for sans salary is one that is equally illogical: They want to set an example. An example? For whom? Will county employees be so moved by such sacrifice that they will work for free one or two days a month? That would save taxpayers about $5 million a year but, taxpayers ought not hold their collective breaths and besides, that would be an unreasonable expectation.
The debate ought to be focused on the amount of pay, if any, that is fair for legislators as opposed to adopting some gimmick that inevitably leads to irresponsible governance. There are circumstances when a tax increase is vital for public safety or for winter blizzards. Legislators ought not be placed in the position of voting against a vital tax increase or losing their pay.
Public officials are experiencing tremendous public pressure, intense criticism and a lack of institutional respect and are overreaching to appease a quarrelsome electorate. Few people are as critical of elected officials as I but, I have a deep and abiding respect for nearly all elected officials--even those with whom I disagree.
Debate the issues; the number of legislators, the pay, but gimmicky proposals lends fodder for public criticism. Every county legislator is elected by voters, taxpayers, real people and that vote ought to weigh heavily on the legislator, but it also should resonate with the voter. By casting that vote, the voter is placing faith and confidence in that representative and that he or she will be competent to govern for at least one term.
Fred Crosscut, Chairman of the County Legislature, is right to oppose the idea of eliminating legislator pay. If legislators do not have self respect--respect for what they do why should anyone else? The job of a county legislator is important--the legislator and the voter should not lose sight of that despite public uneasiness.
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HON. FRED CROSSCUT, CHAIRMAN CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY LEGISLATURE