S.F. 1589: State Department and Veterans Omnibus bill
This Omnibus bill, which was on the floor on Tuesday, contains many important measures thatfund our state’s Veteran programs. However, this bill also contained the much debated salary payincrease for public officials, as well as significant increases in funding for some departments (i.e.upgrades in technology) that while sorely needed, are tough to swallow in such fragile economic times.The pay increases are important to consider in a broader context. The Legislative and Cabinet levelincreases do not go into effect until 2015. There are many reasons why these increases are good policy.One of the reasons (and the most important in my mind) is that in order to attract the best and brightestto hold public office, we must offer a salary that allows the members to make ends meet. Each personserving makes significant personal sacrifice and does so willingly for the privilege of serving. As it stands,Legislators make around 30K a year. This salary limits the pool of qualified candidates, who may be ableto make 3-4 times that amount in the private sector. The result is that our legislative bodies are filledwith many retirees and those who have family circumstances that allow them to flexibly deal with thissalary or young people without familial obligations. I believe that we must offer a salary that can attractcitizens from a diverse set of backgrounds to serve in public office to better reflect the needs of theaverage Minnesotan. This increase makes holding office and providing for a family a real option formany who would have otherwise not considered the position. I do support this policy and believe it isoverdue; however, I understand the concern with regard to timing. With our economy creeping out of arecession and our state budget finally looking manageable, I believe the citizens of Minnesota view thisas a concerning move on behalf of the Legislature. I share that concern and take some comfort inknowing that it does not go into effect until 2015. If oureconomy declines, we can revisit this policy. The same goes forthe other increases to this area of our budget – it’s not that themonies or programs that it will fund are bad, it’s that we are at acritical juncture in our economic recovery and we have theopportunity to plan for the future by being frugal with ourinvestments.The question then becomes do I vote against an entireOmnibus budget bill that provides base funding for many vitalstate programs because I do not support some of the provisions,or do I support the many quality policy points and investmentsat the risk of being misunderstood by the public? On Tuesday, Ichose the latter. The reason I did so is that I believe that thisissue has not yet come to a close. I do support some of theincreases, and yet, not all. I believe the bill can still be craftedinto something that Minnesotan’s will be proud to support.
Senator Bonoff on the Senate floor