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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pay Raises

Interesting events in Scranton, as a proposal to grant pay raises to the Mayor of Scranton and members of City Council went down in flames last night. Now there is no shortage of rhetoric when it comes to opposing this, and when you strip away the bitter feelings on the part of police and firemen (who I really can't blame for their bitterness, by the way) you are left with one central issue:

This is simply not a good time to be granting raises.

I don't think there is ever a "good time" to pay someone in government more, and it's hard to argue that we are in a recession that is harming many folks in the private sector. However, when is there a "good time" to do this? Well, there are a few things to consider:

First, you need to separate your view of the person holding the office from pay of the office. If you don't like Chris Doherty, you may in fact like his replacement, so are you willing to see he/she paid at the current level? We all want some version of "pay for performance", but in the world of politics, "performance" is a relative term.

Second, you have to look at what other similar positions pay. My understanding is that the Mayor of Scranton makes about $25,000 less than what the Mayor of Wilkes-Barre (a smaller city) earns. Does that make any sense?

Third, if you want to attract top talent to a position (and not simply rich folks who can afford to take the pay-cut), you have to pay an attractive wage. There is not way around this's no different than gravity.

Finally, you need to look at the responsibilities of the position. Clearly, running the city of Scranton is a tougher job than running a neighborhood CVS drugstore, but yet I'll bet there are CVS managers who earn somewhere close to $50,000/year. How much sense does that make? Hell, I'll even come clean here: I make quite a bit more than the Mayor of Scranton does, and I think I have less responsibility.

You get what you pay for when it comes to talent.

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