Right on the heels of Maine being recognized as the state with the highest tax burden in the US, (13.5% goes to the state) the Maine State Legislature is considering a bill to increase their pay.
We really don't mind paying the state of Maine: it's a geographically large state; it's lightly populated so the cost of infrastruture maintenance is greater per capita; there are many who live below the poverty line here and need a hand from their neighbors, etc.
However, we do agree with this editiorial in today's Kennebec Journal:
In brief, the bill proposes that the state planning office "shall develop a salary plan for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate sufficient to meet a basic needs budget, which must include, but is not limited to, the following expenditure categories: housing, transportation, child care, health care insurance and out-of-pocket health care expenses, clothing, food, personal care and recreation." And once that plan is developed, it should be implemented for all lawmakers.
What on earth were the bill's sponsors thinking?
Indeed, for some the ideal would have all of society's members earn a salary to cover their basic needs budget. Not just state legislators, but child care workers, garbage haulers, lobstermen, lawmakers, clerks, farmers, teachers, lawyers and everybody else who makes the world go around. And such a system would take from the rich and give to the poor, too, just to even things out.
But we don't live in such an economic system. If lawmakers feel they need a better salary, then there are other ways to go about raising the issue: salary surveys of other states' legislators; a historic review of Maine lawmaker wages; followed, then, by a measured proposal to bring salaries up to a level for which a case has been carefully made.
We're calling our representative today to let them know our thoughts.