Lawmakers can and should return part of their pay

Last week, a state panel recommended that Michigan lawmakers, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general take a 10 percent pay cut starting in 2011.


That’s too little, too late, by our reckoning.


In February, Michigan saw a drop in revenue that was “breathtaking,” according to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Official numbers haven’t been posted by the Department of Treasury, but indications are that revenues were substantially below the lowered estimates set in the January Revenue Estimating Conference, Gongwer News Service reported.


More cuts are needed, said Senate Appropriations Chairman Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks.


The wheels of government may grind ever-so-slowly when it comes to legislative pay cuts but, the way we see it, our lawmakers shouldn’t wait to sacrifice for the greater good.


There’s nothing to prevent them from voluntarily giving back some of their salaries now. A few, to their credit, already do.


Our legislators make $79,650 a year. That’s just base pay. There’s a lot more they get as a part of their jobs. And 12 legislative leaders earn more, depending on their rank.


But, of the state’s 37 senators, just two — Republicans Cameron Brown of St. Joseph County’s Fawn River Township and Gerald Van Woerkom of Norton Shores — return 3 percent of their pay, or $2,389 annually, according to an Associated Press review of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.


Granholm said she will give back 10 percent of her pay this year and encouraged other elected officials to do the same. The Democratic governor has returned 5 or 10 percent of her $177,000 salary to the state treasury every year since taking office in 2003.


Some legislators and state officials cite the fact that they don’t claim mileage reimbursements or hotel and meal expenses that they’re entitled to, but we think their salaries are a separate matter.


Don’t forget they also receive generous benefit packages that, after six years of service, provide lifetime health care coverage for themselves and their spouses after the age of 55.


Our lawmakers’ base salary is second only to California.


A 10-percent salary cut will not make any of them paupers.


As this terrible economy continues to slowly choke the life out of Michigan, we ask all elected state leaders to step forward and do this much: Give something back to the state that has given so much to you.