It's hard to imagine a group more useless than the Missouri Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials. The group was created in 1994 when Missouri voters thought it would be a good idea to turn over the sticky issue of lawmakers raising their own salaries. The commission was designed to meet, discuss the need for salary review for many Missouri elected officials and then to make those recommendations to the Legislature which holds the ultimate power of approval.
Well on paper at least, the Commission sounded like a good idea. Two years ago however, the Commission recommended a pay hike but the Legislature failed to approve it. The same is very likely to happen this year.
Last week the Commission voted to approve a 5.8 percent pay increase for top state elected officials as well as all of the judges in the state. But given the tight state of Missouri's budget, don't look for approval of these raises in the upcoming legislative session.
If approved, the raises would total $5.6 million. Granted, in the scope of the state budget this is not a large number. And the Commission members rightfully felt that the state budget should not be balanced on the backs of elected officials. In other words, right is right regardless of the budget.
But this political hot potato will get even hotter if the Legislature should approve the recommendations. Given the current climate, that will not happen.
If the Legislature were to ignore the recommendations again, there will be a movement to abolish the salary commission. Though it may have sounded good, only the Legislature knows if funding is available for salary increases and only the Legislature should be making those decisions. By ignoring the recommendation, the Legislature is saying those very words.
Voters will need to eliminate the salary commission and they may be asked to do so in the coming year. This time around, I hope we get it right.