In the controversy over the recently enacted Delaware Compensation Commissionís 2005 salary recommendations, a few things have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Chief among these is that we, along with many of our colleagues in the State House, did not support the pay raises and we donít approve of the manner in which they were enacted.
The adoption of the compensation package means that most state legislators, including ourselves, are getting a nine-percent raise. For the remainder of our two-year terms (Nov. 2006), itís our intent to use this money solely for the benefit of the communities we serve. This money will be donated to non-profit groups performing worthy functions in each of our districts. We will not take one penny of it for ourselves.
Additionally, we donít ever again want to ever see the wrangling, miscommunication and hard feelings caused by the General Assemblyís poor handling of the commissionís recommendations. Change is needed and the sooner the better.
Under the current system, the six-member Delaware Compensation Commission meets once every four years to study the salaries of state legislators, judges and high-level executive branch officials. The commission issues a list of salary recommendations the first day of the new General Assembly session. Those findings are enacted February 1 unless the General Assembly passes, and the governor signs, a joint resolution preventing it.
When the current system was enacted over 20 years ago, it may have made some sense. At the time, there was a legitimate disconnect between the responsibilities shouldered by many high-level state officials and the pay they received. But those days are past and itís clearly time to change a process that allows significant tax dollars to be spent without a vote by the General Assembly.
To that end, weíre supporting four new reform bills.
The first piece of legislation will be a House Concurrent Resolution. Itíll recommend to the Joint Finance Committee that those state officials who benefited from the Delaware Compensation Commission recommendations -- including state representatives and senators -- not receive any salary hikes included in the Fiscal Year 2006 budget for other state workers. This is a common sense measure and will help ensure that the officials who just received pay bumps will not be coming back in six months for another shot at the till.
A second bill would make future recommendations of the Delaware Compensation Commission advisory. The commission would still issue a report comparing the salary of Delaware officials against those in comparable states. However, any future salary increases would require a vote by lawmakers and the signature of the governor, the same as any other bill.
Another reform bill would end the current method used for calculating the salary of the Delaware Secretary of Education. Currently, the commission takes the average salary of the three highest-paid school district superintendents in the state and adds 10 percent to arrive at the secretary's salary figure. Not only is this driving up the compensation for this position, itís also ratcheting up the governorís pay since thereís a supposition that the governor should be the highest-paid official in the executive branch.
We also back a proposal to eliminate the provision of the state constitution that currently bars a sitting governor from receiving a raise. With this removed, the governor would be placed on the same playing field as other state employees.
If all four bills are enacted, legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officers and judges would be treated in the same fashion as teachers, secretaries, deputy attorney generals and other state workers.
We strongly urge all our colleagues in the General Assembly, as well as the governor, to enact these measures aimed at reforming a system that has outlived its usefulness.