Prop. 300 To Validate Adage, 'You Get What You Pay For'

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In the Rim country, where wages tend to hover around the minimum, it might not be the most popular of the initiatives voters will consider Nov. 7.

But Proposition 300, which would raise the salaries of state legislators from $24,000 to $30,000 a year, has merit.

"These are the people we elect to be leaders," The Arizona Republic points out in a recent editorial endorsing 300, "to help build a brighter, bolder public future for our state. We look to state lawmakers to shape sound growth policy, improve education, stimulate the economy, provide health care for poor kids, construct a responsible mental health care system.... This," the paper concludes, "isn't match book-type stuff."

The fact that many observers believe the legislature does a less than sterling job of living up to these expectations is perhaps an argument for, rather than against, a pay increase. The less we pay our lawmakers, the Republic suggests, the more likely they are to be influenced by lobbyists and other special interests, and the more likely we are to end up with retirees or rich people who don't represent the best interests of most of the people.

The last time legislators got a pay raise was two years ago, when they were bumped from $15,000 to $24,000 their first increase in 17 years.

One of the groups opposed to the increase is the Arizona Libertarian Party. In the ballot booklet published by the state, they argue that our part-time legislators are becoming "long-term, professional politicians who spend too much time and too much of our money passing laws we probably do not need...."

Rather than give them a raise, the Libertarians believe we should give them more time off. "Remember, as a famous political observer once wrote: 'No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session,'" they remind us.

In the final analysis, how you vote will probably depend on how you feel about the validity of a famous old saying: "You get what you pay for."

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