Monday, May 21, 2007
Do bigger public salaries equal better government officials?
I read with great interest the lapolitics newsletter today and thought of sharing an excerpt.
John Maginnis writes the following...
Increasing the salaries of politicians, especially those at the top, is always a tough sell, and the availability of resources seldom has anything to do with it.
With every election cycle one hears the lament about the lack of good people willing to offer themselves for public office. Yet what are we doing to make public service more attractive? Small wonder that fewer successful, well-adjusted individuals choose to endure the expense, stress, heartache and plain meanness of modern-day election campaigns for the honor and rewards of serving we the people.
Last year, Attorney General Charles Foti, a retired sheriff, stirred up huge controversy and anger within the medical community and the public for arresting a doctor and two nurses following his post-Katrina investigation of mercy killing at a New Orleans hospital. It was assumed that he would face multiple viable challengers this year from the ranks of district attorneys and term-limited legislators. So far, the only takers are Buddy Caldwell, a district attorney eligible to retire, and Royal Alexander, a former congressional aide.
Foti sits on a big campaign war chest, but is he that strong or is the lure of the state's top legal office so weak? Where are the state's best legal minds or even politically ambitious lawyers, who could position themselves to run for governor or senator? They are making money, of course, having invested heavily in building their professional careers.
Even doubling the A.G.'s salary would not come near what top lawyers in private practice are pulling down, but doing so would make a one-term or two-term stint feasible, especially for some well-qualified district attorneys.
On this subject a few years ago, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said, "You get what you pay for," and instantly regretted it. What he meant was not that he and other incumbents would work harder if paid more, but that more good people would offer themselves for the top levels of public service if they didn't feel they would be punished for it.