Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Economy pinches lives of some Arizona lawmakers

Linda Lopez (D-LD29) in the legislature.

TUCSON -- The Star ran an interesting story Sunday on how Arizona's down economy is affecting some SoAZ legislators, including me, my family and my seatmates.

Many legislators are independently wealthy, but I am not. I think it helps the public interest to have legislators who are feeling the reality of some the same economic pains as their constituents.

1 comment:

Eli Blake said...

I disagree.

We only pay our legislators $24,000 per year.

Even if you are lucky enough to find an employer who will give you half the year off and hold your position open for the other half of the year (but you can't guarantee that you will be available even then because there might be a special session) the pay is too low for what amounts to a full time job.

In fact, what it has resulted in is a legislature that is overly populated by both the independently wealthy and retirees. Now, I have nothing against either those who have become wealthy (or perhaps married or inherited wealth) or those who have retired after a long career but there is no question that this balance seriously unbalances the legislature in terms of their priorities (for example if the legislature is composed mainly of people whose kids are grown up or who can afford to pay their kids tuition no matter how high it gets, then I'd suggest they are more likely to cut university funding than would say, a more representative legislature like we'd have if more people could afford to serve.)

Term limits is another problem that unbalances the legislature and causes serious problems. What it means is that once people start to know what they are doing, they are forced to leave. Additionally it seriously depletes institutional memory and contributes to the problem that we've had that we start to make a commitment in an area, then later a group of people who don't know why we were doing that come in and cut it and go in a completely different direction (biotech looks like it may the latest example.) What this does is deters any serious industry commitment in Arizona the way, for example, Pittsburgh aggressively and successfully targeted major robotics and medical research labs after the steel industry shut down twenty years ago. The lawmakers who pushed for that have been there all along giving it a consistent push while in Arizona they'd have been long since replaced (probably two or three times) by people who had no concept of what the original plan was.

Between low pay (for legislators included), low taxes, low spending, term limits and the law that effectively bars the legislature from raising taxes, we have become the conservative dream.

Only we are on our way to becoming a backwater instead.