3-30-15 – A Teachable Moment Over Legislative Pay Cut Debate?

posted by Rob Roper

Friday afternoon a handful of Republican representatives tried to pass an amendment to the budget that would have cut legislators’ pay by 7.5%. Legislators currently receive about $675 per week while they are in session (about $11,000 total for roughly four months work), plus a $65 a day food allowance, and either mileage compensation or a housing stipend, which many collect without spending to supplement their income.

Rep. Job Tate (R-Mendon), lead sponsor of the pay cut amendment, argued that if Montpelier was going to take money out of Vermonters’ wallets through cuts and taxes, it was only fair that they should share in the pain. However, according to the Associated Press (March 27, 2015):

Democrats argued that with lower pay, average Vermonters could not afford to serve.

“We have to make sure that people can afford to be part of the citizen Legislature,” said Rep. Catherine “Kitty” Toll, D-Danville. With her legislative work outside the paid session, Toll said, “I’m not making the minimum wage.” Any lawmaker could request to give up some or all of the salary; “to make a political statement on this on the floor is unfair,” she added.

And here’s the teachable moment; the point apparently lost on Rep. Toll and her colleagues. Perhaps she’s correct that taking $50 a week out of the take home pay of a legislator would make it impossible for him or her to continue doing what he or she is doing. But the same holds true for every Vermonter.

When the legislature taxes money out of the take-home pay of its citizens, it makes it impossible to some degree for people to continue doing the things they are currently doing: saving for retirement, or for college, or paying the mortgage, or the light bill, or going out for pizza on Friday nights. This is something that never seems to occur to people like Rep. Toll when it’s happening to folks other than themselves.

“We have to make sure that people can afford to be part of the citizen Legislature.” Yeah. But, you also have to make sure that people can afford to be citizens of Vermont. And in that task, you are failing.

As for Toll’s comment about any lawmaker being able to give up some salary if they so choose, well, that’s nice. But, it’s not option available to the taxpayer. Government wants, government takes. Nobody’s “asking” Vermonters to pay more, despite the rhetoric. Vermonters are being forced to pay more, and to deal with the consequences on their own.

Here’s a suggestion for Rep. Toll and the rest. Take the pay cut, and start packing a lunch. That should save the $10 a day you’d be giving up, and who doesn’t love a good PB&J?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivan March 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Kitty Toll,s huband is owns 10 car dealerships in vermont and newhampshire,
and her family has been deeply rooted in northeast kingdom politics and business
scene for generations.
To say she is extremely well off is a massive understatement.
“Do as we say not as we do” is that your argument Mrs Toll ?????????????????


Peg C March 31, 2015 at 4:43 pm

What happened to the transparency of the legislature??? Do you remember your legislators quickly passing a bill a few years ago, that would hide how much of a pre-bate was received? They claim they did it to protect YOU, but they did it to protect themselves. Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas was getting 70% of her school taxes pre-bated by the taxpayers. The Norwich Rep. Margaret Cheney received over $16,000 in pre-bates, because as she stated, ‘I’m putting kids through college, and it is expensive!’
If the legislature thinks the wealthy need to pay more in taxes, why don’t we start with an assets test of the elected in Montpelier?


Steve Hearne April 4, 2015 at 12:45 am

When I worked as a commercial truck driver I supplied my own chow when ever I worked local. That is, when my trip began and ended in the same location. When I worked the road, the company provided a hotel room with five locks on the door and five dollars a day for meals. Somehow I managed to not only survive but provide for my family despite the best efforts of the goverment to tax me out of house and home.


Peg C April 8, 2015 at 1:20 am

I also, as a commercial truck driver for nearly 30 years, paid for all my meals out of my own pocket while on the road with both interstate and intrastate employments. My employers never paid me to GO to work, but Montpelier legislators get paid to go to and from work and I recall it was .55 cents per mile, wether they car pool or go solo.


john mendenhall April 4, 2015 at 2:36 am

“When the legislature taxes money out of the take-home pay of its citizens, it makes it impossible to some degree for people to continue doing the things they are currently doing: saving for retirement, or for college, or paying the mortgage, or the light bill, …”

To that point, I have asked both of my legislators to do put an end to Energy Efficient Vermont and it’s relentless taking $12 -14/ month from my pocket. They now also saw fit to force me to share $1.50 / meter to the mandatory Energy Sharing Fund.
I have installed LEDs, purchased energy efficient appliances, and even gone so far as heating my H2O and house with wood.
Get your GD hands outa’ my pocket. No stop taxing me ,so I can save for retirement!


Vincent Curtis Hunter April 4, 2015 at 4:12 pm

“…average Vermonters could not afford to serve.” ? …and that’s a bad thing? Let me see if I understand this. Representative Toll’s (the democratic?) argument here is — Vermonters are not capable of earning a living AND function as legislators, so they need to be paid to serve as our legislators? …and that’s a good thing?
Maybe it’s just me but, wouldn’t this suggest, conversely, that the way the legislature works needs to be re-configured (reduced) if you want to serve and it’s going to severely intrude on your ability to earn a living?


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