Given voters' overwhelming approval of the amendment to create a pay council to set salaries for state senators and representatives, newspapers across the state are dissing House Speaker Kurt Daudt's efforts to reject legislative pay raises for all Minnesota state lawmakers.
Most editorials pair the Crown Republican leader's fiscal conservative virtue signalling with his 2018 gubernatorial ambitions. It's not pretty reading--and the Speaker's grandstanding contrasts sharply with potential DFL rival's long-standing actions in handling a pay raise.
The editorials, from Crookston to Rochester and places between
In Daudt’s on the wrong side of the salary debate, a signed editorial at the Crookston Times, Mike Christopherson opines:
Wouldn't we all love to be in Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt's shoes...soundly rejecting a generous pay hike?
Offered a hefty pay raise along with the rest of his colleagues in the state House and Senate for their work as state legislators, Daudt has taken it upon himself to take measures to block the salary increase.
In all seriousness, the Republican from Crown, Minnesota might have his heart in the right place. After all, he says – predictably, yes – that he's not taking this selfless, fiscally conservative stand for any reasons having to do with his campaign for Minnesota governor in 2018. . . .
Daudt, the state legislator as well as the gubernatorial hopeful, is facing a dilemma, and so far he's choosing the wrong side. If hard-working, underpaid Minnesotans don't like the size of the raise given to the legislature by the citizen council, while they might direct some of their ire at the actual lawmakers receiving it, they'll be irked with not just Daudt but everyone else in the House and Senate. And they might be less than pleased with the citizen council as well.
But by taking his stance and discounting and even rejecting what lots of Minnesota voters approved in 2016 in the form of a constitutional amendment to form this Legislative Salary Council, the potentially negative spotlight is shining on Daudt and only Daudt.
And in the uber-conservative Fairmont Sentinel's grab-bag Et Cetera editorial:
Daudt should back off
Last November, Minnesota voters put a citizens council in charge of setting the pay of state lawmakers. This new council met and decided to increase lawmaker pay from $31,000 to $45,000.
There had been no salary hikes for lawmakers since 1999, and part of the idea is to make the job attractive enough to people to make it worth their while to run.
Now, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt wants to challenge the pay raise, likely to avoid a political backlash from voters. The challenge will mean a court battle and associated costs. Daudt should leave well enough alone. Voters OK’d the council, which OK’d the raises.
Drive north to Benson, Minnesota, and Reed Anfinson, editor of the Swift County Monitor weighs in with Minnesota Voters Spoke; Daudt Not Listening:
Minnesota Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt is rumored to be considering a run for the governorship in 2018. As with all politicians considering a run for higher office, he is carefully calculating his actions in light of how they will play with citizens across the state next year. Such calculation often puts politicians in untenable situations where common sense and political courage take a back seat.
Last fall Minnesota voters overwhelmingly chose to give the authority to raise legislator salaries to the independent citizen Legislative Salary Council. The constitutional amendment granting the authority passed with 76 percent approval –an amazingly high percentage considering all ballots on which a person didn’t check a box were considered no votes.
Legislators drafted the ballot language several years ago after proposal after proposal to increase their pay died. Members of the state House and Senate have always known that opponents in the next election will use pay raises against them. “Not only didn’t they accomplish anything last year, they also gave themselves a raise!” That is just one of the likely campaign slogans a member of the Legislature would have to face if he or she had voted for a raise. . . .
Fellow Republican Gazelka has said he thinks voters made it “pretty clear” they wanted decisions on salaries taken out of the Legislature’s hands. “The people voted by large margins to have an outside group determine the salaries, and now it is directly directed by the constitution,” he said. “I’m moving on to dealing with the budget, to fixing health care, roads and bridges.”
Gazelka isn’t running for any higher office in 2018 – you think that might have anything to do with his blunt honesty? Maybe. But he has also shown an unpolitician-like honesty on other issues as well.
If Daudt continues to block the increase he has been told he can expect to be challenged in court. . . .
But getting sued may be Daudt’s strategy. If the courts order him to comply, it gives him cover. He can say he fought it when he starts campaigning for governor. Perhaps, we are being a little cynical – but listening to politicians can do that to a person. . . .
Oh my. The Rochester Bulletin chimes in with Our View: Daudt reinserts politics into pay raise issue:
The new process for determining the paychecks of Minnesota state legislators was supposed to remove the issue from political jockeying and showmanship.
The plan, approved overwhelmingly by Minnesota voters in November, establishes an independent commission, the Legislative Salary Council, to study and recommend lawmakers' salaries. The council decided last week to give state lawmakers their first pay increase since 1999, jumping annual salaries from $31,000 to $45,0000, effective in July. Gulp.
Granted, that's a hefty increase, even if it is meant to make up for 18 years of flat salaries. More than a few voters no doubt had buyer's remorse upon seeing the recommendation. . . .
Enter House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Republican from Zimmerman, who is positioning himself for a run for governor in 2018. Daudt has directed the House controller not to put out the increased salaries to legislators. Daudt says only lawmakers have the power to release the money to pay for the increase, and he won't let them.
Daudt's move smacks of the same kind of political grandstanding the voters appeared to want to do away with in approving the ballot proposal last year. . . .
At the Mankato Free Press, the editorial board opines in Our View: Legislative pay: Speaker shouldn't circumvent panel:
The citizen panel exists because the voters of Minnesota last November passed a constitutional amendment handing the authority to set legislative pay to it. That amendment drew no organized opposition and was ratified easily by the electorate.
Daudt could have campaigned against it. He chose not to. And now that it’s in effect, he has decided that he can unilaterally override it? Nonsense. The pay raise is constitutionally mandated, and the purpose of the amendment was to shield lawmaker salaries from just these kinds of political theatrics.
The objection to the size of the raise is also misplaced. Yes, $14,000 is a sizable jump. But it amounts to a 2.5 percent increase per year since 1999, the last year the Legislature granted itself a pay raise. It’s also a rate slightly lower than the rate of inflation over those years. And the citizens panel suggested that the salary increase be coupled with a reduction in the legislative per diem payments.
The Legislature is theoretically a part-time job, but those who have served in it know better. It should not be the preserve of those wealthy enough that they can afford to sabotage their non-political livelihoods.
Daudt, who is expected to run for governor in 2018, is probably making a grandstand play. On the off chance that he sincerely believes that he would be ripping off the taxpayers at $45,000 a year, there are solutions. He can return the money to the state treasury. He can donate it to charity. He could even cede his position if he thinks $45,000 is too much for what he does for the state.
What he shouldn’t do is what he’s doing.
Walz continues to send old raises back to US Treasury
That sentence we bolded (He can return the money to the state treasury) prompted a memory from Bluestem's back pages: First Congressional District representative Tim Walz's refusal to take pay increases--and continues to return the money, year after year, even after public scrutiny of the raise has subsided.
Some representatives make a BFD about returning a raise that year that it's granted, then quietly accept the money the next year. Walz, on the other hand, continues to file the paperwork to send his raises back to the U.S, Treasury.
Yes, really. We contacted Sara Severs at his Mankato office and learned that Walz remains true to his word years after the last congressional pay raise came.
The last congressional cost-of-living increase was authorized in 2009 and pay has been frozen since, according to The Atlantic. Back then, the editorial board of the West Central Tribune wrote in Congress should return '09 pay raise:
What is it that congressional lawmakers don't get on the economy?
The economy is in the tank, but it is OK for members of Congress to take a raise. It must be Washington economics.
Members of Congress just got a 3 percent or $5,000 raise in January and the majority accepted it. . . .
Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz has returned his pay increase every year since he was elected in 2006. Now that is true leadership -- Walz is walking the talk. . . .
The Washington Post reported in 2011:
Walz is returning all the salary increases he has received since joining the House in 2006.
“That old adage [is] ‘It’s better to try and live a sermon than give one,’ ” Walz said in a telephone interview. He said he “just decided it was the right thing to do.”
It is a fact universally acknowledged that Walz will make a bid for DFL endorsement for the open governor's contest when Mark Dayton retires after 2018. Just on Tuesday, two days ago, Roll Call reported Minnesota’s Tim Walz Close to Decision on Gubernatorial Run.
Walz began returning his raises long before he and Gwen considered measuring the drapes in the governor's residence on Summit Avenue and drew just praise for his actions. Daudt, on the other hand, is getting called out for short-circuiting voters' wishes in a effort to position himself for 2018.
In a head-to-head match-up, who would emerge as the better leader?
Note: While Bluestem likes Tim Walz, we haven't settled on a gubernatorial candidate as we like many of those running.
Photo: Speaker Kurt Daudt.
If you appreciate our posts and original analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen, 33166 770th Ave, Ortonville, MN 56278) or use the paypal button in the upper right hand corner of this post. Those wishing to make a small ongoing monthly contribution should click on the paypal subscription button.
Or you can contribute via this link to paypal; use email email@example.com as recipient.