The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
Those of us who live in the “real world” were surprised last week when a committee recommended that certain Utah political leaders be given hefty wage increases. The state commission showcased the plight of poor Gov. Gary Herbert, who earns $109,900; the members suggested the Utah Legislature give him a 36 percent raise to $150,000 a year.
The committee members justified it in two ways: leadership salaries should be high enough so that the “average” citizens could be lured to seek out the jobs, and pay in the low six-figures minimized the role of leaders when compared to other professional occupations.
A Salt Lake daily newspaper agreed with the idea. It editorialized, “The governor earns much less in salary than many top state employees at the University Medical Center and Medical School, where competition for high-level doctors and researchers is fierce.”
But the comparison is meaningless. The president of the United States makes a lot less than a host of Wall Street wheeler-dealers and corporate bigwigs, but I’ll bet the farm that every one would take an enormous pay cut to sit in the Oval Office. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both could make more in their legal and business fields than they could as president, but that didn’t stop them from seeking office.
The problem with the state committee’s recommendation is that it considers the reason people run for public office. It’s seldom about the money; it’s about power, prestige, and ego. This is why last month two physicians took a 90 percent pay cut from their medical compensation to earn seats in the state legislature. It’s nice to have a lucrative job and a thick bankroll, but you get more accolades and bows when you carry the title of governor or senator.
Also, the committee’s reasoning that “average” citizens would shun a $109,900 paycheck shows how out of touch the committee is. In the “real world”, Utah families earn half that amount Р and unlike the governor, they don’t get free housing, government transportation, and taxpayer-funded travel.
If anything, the country would be better off if, as in Japan, there were a smaller gap between the honchos and the working stiffs. There’s something wrong when a school superintendent earns eight times more than many of his teachers or when the school district public relations spokesman in the cushy office earns three times more than the math instructor.
I can assure the state committee that there will be no shortage of qualified candidates for Utah’s governor if the salary remains the same. In fact, the Legislature could trim the salary by $30,000 and there would still be a line pursuing the job.
Last week a newspaper released the salaries of local city attorneys ($145,000 in Park City, $142,000 in Salt Lake City and Bountiful, $125,000 in Layton, etc.). I’d bet any of these fine gentlemen would take a pay cut to get the key to the Governor’s Mansion.