What Was The Pay Commission Thinking?

In corporations, anyone who owns shares or is invested in the company can ask questions of their CEOs and corporate officers. Most of the annual meetings, we are told, are very polite and are a lot like watching a sophisticated ballet with a predictable beginning and end.

Taxpayers are not so lucky. We have to depend on the wisdom of a hand-picked Salary Commission, which meets in private and makes recommendations regarding pay levels for government officials. Those officials must then entertain the commission’s recommendations and decide whether to accept or decline them. Most of the commissioners are from the private sector, and have the standing belief that “you get what you pay for.” There also is a competitive factor, as if the public sector was competing for executive talent with the private sector.

More often than not, the elected officials reject the suggested raises for themselves, despite the Salary Commission’s recommendation. There nearly always is a spin on the rejection.

This time around, City Council members said they “could not accept raises at a time when many Oahu families are suffering financial hardships.”

And while it’s enough to make one tear up out of gratitude, a councilmember’s pay of $54,552 is pretty good compensation for a part-time job, not to mention that the free downtown office space and paid staff, franking privileges and free telephone and parking services have to make it one of the best jobs in the state.

The City Council will bring up the matter June 5, so there is still time for them to come to their senses and accept the Salary Commission’s recommendations. After all, if they feel that strongly about the plight of the City and County taxpayers, shouldn’t the salary commissioners have felt the same way?