Dame: Legislative pay & recruitment

by Paul Dame, VTGOP Chair

Among the many poorly formed bills that Democrats send to Gov. Scott, the most audacious one, and one that is likely to be sustained was the bill that doubled legislative pay.  Democrats have raised the cost of living for all Vermonters through increases in driver’s licence and vehicle registration renewals, increases in property taxes, a new mandatory 5% withholding of pay for retirement plans and a new payroll tax for an extra 1% and for sticking it to taxpayers, legislators believed now was the time to reward themselves with not just a modest increase, but a fundamental restructuring of what it means to serve in the Vermont legislature.  This effort would have destroyed the nature of our citizen legislature, and taken a drastic step towards creating a permanent political class in Vermont for the first time in our state’s history.

Paul Dame, VTGOP Chair

Democrats give the excuse that the pay increase is needed to recruit legislators.  But I can tell you as someone who has done recruiting, the conversation of pay either never comes up – or it’s an after-thought.  The real deal-breaker for most otherwise qualified people is the unknown time commitment.  Gov. Douglas recently recounted that when Republicans were in the majority, he remembers adjourning in March.  Since Democrats have taken control, they constantly extend the session to advance any number of non-essential bills that are popular among the Democrat donor base.  In effect they are using taxpayer dollars to do the research of a left-wing think tank.  When the scope of the legislative session is so broad its length could extend indefinitely, and in other Deep Blue states, they have become full-time year-round positions with salary and benefits.  I think our framers were wise to keep the session run by regular people who had other real jobs to get back to.

How many employers have any of us ever worked for that would be perfectly content to allow us to take off 4-6 months without giving any firm date for when we would return?  Just posing the question is preposterous.  And that unpredictable and lengthy time commitment does far more to restrict regular W2 employees from stepping up to run for office and to serve than the pay differential.  How then do the Democrats do it?  Well, the nature of their employers are fundamentally different.  Many Democrats work for non-profit corporations that received money from the State of Vermont, either in the form of direct appropriations, subsidies or as contractors.

If we start at the top we can take a look at House Speaker Jill Krowinski’s career path in the legislature.  She started her legislative career while she was the executive director of Planned Parenthood.  Since Planned Parenthood has one of the largest and most active PACs in the state, they are more than willing to let their employees take off as much time off to serve in the legislature, because it basically provides them with an unregistered lobbyist.  Plus they can write off the salary as an expense out of the tax-deductible non-profit part of their organization, where donors names and amounts are undisclosed, instead of the PAC where everything is reportable.

Other organizations like the Howard Center are more than willing to allow an employee like Rep. Barbara Rachelson to take undefined leave because they have an exclusive contract with the State of Vermont to provide various services, especially surrounding the delivery of mental health services and are one of the largest recipients of the hard-to-track grants housed in the Agency of Human Services portfolio.  One degree removed from these examples are others like Rep. Mike McCarthy who works for Sun Common, a solar panel installation company.  While they may not have received funds directly from the State of Vermont (yet) their business model does rely heavily on some of the taxpayer-funded incentives provided through legislation to get people to buy their products and services.  And if those incentives ever went away, their business would suffer.  So these, and many other organizations like them, have an incentive to allow their employees to take leave for an extended period, because they know that their interests will be protected.

The move to professionalize the legislature and increase the pay while simultaneously keeping the long an unpredictable schedule serves as a way for many of the non-profits in VT who benefit from the status quo to cement their competitive advantage of placing their employees into the legislature, while also having the effect of starting to push the cost back on to the average taxpayer so that they can drop the legislators from their company health insurance plan and enroll them as part-time.

This is why Vermont Republicans have been fighting for a shorter session.  First it truly broadens the opportunity for many more citizens to participate as a citizen legislator.  While not every employer can agree to give their employee 90 days off, more companies can accommodate a shorter and well defined leave than are currently doing so under today’s arrangement.  Everyone form House Republicans, up to the Governor’s office has been proposing the same solution.  And, as is often the case, the Democrats have a solution that costs more money, and the Republican provide a solution that would cost less.

The author is an Essex Junction resident and chair of the Vermont Republican Party.

Categories: Commentary

5 replies »

  1. The common denominator in this sad story is uniparty government. Republican legislators need not apply!

  2. This entire subject of Remuneration for Politicians of all parties have so far strayed from the intent of our 1776 constitution of these Federation of States. This is so far off course and nowhere close to the intent of our peoples Constitution and other documents brought into being during this time period. Why this has taken place is a long and Torturous path which will in good time be brought forth into the public light.

    Suffice it to say; In this day and age, the term ” Politician/Lawyer”, these identifiers go hand and hand; Are, IMO, Treasonous, Corrupt, Criminals who prey off the asleep public and should be dispatched as such according to their crimes.

    Politicians have absolutely NO PLACE, in our original form of government which is a FEDERATION OF STATES; not a Democracy, but a FEDERATION and all that implies. GO LOOK IT UP… A democracy is no more than MOB RULE.. And that folks is exactly what we have have now!! The MOB, Cabal, CARTEL, and many other names of these criminals rule though the Federal Reserve and enacting NON- CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS and Infringing on our GOD GIVEN RIGHTS

    Start processing the cutting of timber….

    • Skip: While I agree we’ve strayed considerably from our founders’ intent, you lost me when you tried to imply “politician/lawyer” as a relevant negative factor in the Vermont legislature. It tells me you have not looked up the actual occupations of those now serving.

      During my last two terms in the legislature I was the only practicing lawyer in either body. I haven’t checked for this year, but I’m betting the number of practicing lawyers is now even less. Facts are important.

  3. If serving in the Legislature causes financial stress, why are so many members serving multi-terms that some span over decades? If there wasn’t money to be made, legitimately or illegimately, they would not run for those seats term after term. They refuse to pass term-limit legislation. Why? Many sitting in those seats are double dipping and side peddling their influence to game the system. Any claiming they are depleted of assets for serving are liars – thieves are liars just the same. Regardless of the letter signifying their party affilitation, D, P, or R, the machine they represent, the selection committee that places them in the seat, ensures they are compensated well above their stipends and expenses. All they must do is tow the line and keep the Beast system fed and fat on taxpayers money. If one wishes to sell their soul for a buck, win a selection and it’s all gravy from there. .

  4. Something for “Johnny Bananas” to check into. If the statue of Ceres were to be removed, and a big hole cut in the Golden Dome” where the statue used to be, then the dome upside down, creating a giant funnel, then fill the “funnel” with a mixture of tar, and feathers, I think the resulting mixture would seep through the whole building, and plug the holes that our tax dollars are escaping through ! Just a thought……