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Chairman's Message

Montgomery County’s Council Gets Even More Overpaid

Posted: November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

markUncaphernewMontgomery County Council members, who already have a salary of $104,291, will see their pay increase in increments to $136,258 by 2017 as a result of their recently passed legislation.  The County Executive’s salary will increase to $190,000 a year from $180,250.  These increases were contained in legislation passed the County Council by an 8-1 vote. Only Councilman Philip Andrews voted against the increases, although he would never have received the raise since he is not running for re-election. The past week County Executive Ike Leggett indicated that he would not sign the council bill, but would allow the bill to become law without his signature.  The increases will begin to take effect after the 2014 election.

Before even addressing the new salary, at $104,000 per year, it must be noted that the Council members already receive more than every single state legislator in the country.  The highest paid state legislators in the country, those in California, receive $95,000 per year.  That state has fewer legislators than Maryland, with State Senate districts approaching a million people each in size.  In contrast Maryland state legislators earn $43,500 per year.

The County Executive Leggett’s current salary is already higher than New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $179,000, California Governor Jerry Brown’s $174,000 and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s $175,000.   Leggett currently earns more than the 50 state average for Governors of $133,000 or Maryland Governor O’Malley’s $150,000.

The County’s high official salaries could end up costing Montgomery money in the coming state legislative session.  Montgomery’s largess with its own officials certainly undermines a contention that county’s deserves more money from the state budget. Indeed, in piece of extraordinarily inept timing, at the same time they were putting the finishing touches on their pay grab this week, the same County officials were asking for a $20 million state funding increases sufficient to cover another $250 million in new school construction borrowing. A County Executive making more than the Governor has trouble convincingly pleading poverty.

In defending the pay increase, the County Council members cite their “full-time” status.  In fact, an open question exists whether residents are better off with full-time legislators or not.  The Council’s limited exposure to the real world beyond government results in an isolated point of view.  For example the current Council has little appreciation of the impact that their proposed 59% increase in the minimum wage could have on either local businesses or new job creation.  Similarly their regular introduction of various nanny government proposals intended to make Montgomery government residents better conform to their desired gentry liberal norms suggests nine people with simply too much time on their hands.

Another argument offered for higher Council salaries is that they are necessary to attract more “qualified” candidates for the job.  This is certainly an intriguing argument, since it suggests an admission that the current Council members are less qualified than they ought to be or that the Council members are attracted by the money they can make from the job.

In looking at the national figures, an interesting correlation exists among states with low legislative salaries and economic competiveness.  Among large states, Texas stands for having the lowest legislative salary, just $7,200 per year. A clear benefit of a “citizen” legislature is that its members are far more directly share their constituents’ economic conditions. (Should I point out that on an annual full-time basis, the Texas salary is less than the current minimum wage, let alone the proposed new Montgomery County rate?)

New Hampshire has even more of a citizen legislature.  The state, which has a population about 30% larger than Montgomery County, yet has 424 members in its legislature. That is not a typo; there is one legislator for every 3,000 citizens.  Their annual salary is just $100 per year. Consequently the combined salaries of every single member of their legislature are less than that of a single Maryland legislator and only a third of the new County Council salary. Yet without a state income tax, New Hampshire has enjoyed an economic and job growth rate unmatched in the northeast.

The full cost to our County of the Council’s salary increase is not just the added expense.  We need a Council that is less a part of a permanent political class and more familiar with the daily realties that average Montgomery County residents and businesses face.

Mark Uncapher

Montgomery County Republican Chairman