Monday, November 14, 2005

The Worth of A Man (or Woman)

I recently wrote yet another blog entry on the legislative pay raise and found this in a comment someone left.

Being a good legislator requires skills in writing and interpreting the law, communicating with other citizens, helping others solve sometimes complex personal problems, communicating with the media, managing governmental staff, helping private sector leaders, and engaging in persuasive speech with many people who are experts in different fields. These skills have significant market value and are often found most readily with those who have advanced degrees.

This was written by way of justifying the rather generous increase legislators recently received and even more recently rescinded. Prior to the increase legislators received $69,647 a year, along with a per diem when in Harrisburg, a car allowance, and health benefits.

To see if, indeed, such low remuneration were likely to chase away quality candidates, I consulted the Pennsylvania Occupational Outlook Handbook. It provided this job description for “Government Chief Executives and Lawyers”

Candidates for public office do not have any established training or qualification demands although prior political experience can be beneficial. For most positions, individuals must meet the minimum age, residency and citizenship requirements.

Aspiring government officials must be able to motivate and inspire their constituents and staff. They should be able to make decisions quickly and know how to reach compromises. Energy, stamina and strong fund raising skills are vital to a successful campaign. Through their political campaign and involvement in community organizations, many candidates make a name for themselves.

Reviewing again the description at the top of this post, written in a comment to my earlier post, I looked at the average salary in 2000 of other occupations in the state, as listed in the aforementioned occupational handbook. I think police detectives would also fit the description the commenter left. Their average salary in PA is $59,450, lower than legislators. Secondary school teachers average $44,590, elementary school teachers, $47,560. Many teachers these days have graduate degrees. Librarians, who have one or more master’s degrees, average $43,790. Landscape architects, who also have graduate degrees, average $45,430. An RN averages $43,940. Experienced social workers, many of whom bring home $43,000, also often have a graduate degree. Administrative law judges averaged $58,160. Lawyers generally received an average of $83,310.

So there is certainly not a lack of well-educated people in the Commonwealth who would see a considerable leap in their income, and probably their benefits as well, even at the old (and now new) legislative salary. So why don’t we have a legislature full of police detectives, teachers, librarians, landscape architects and social workers? I have my own theories on this but would be very interested in reading yours as well.


Anonymous said...


Why don't you use the blogger ID associated with Representative Cohen's blog?

AboveAvgJane said...


I've checked with Rep. Cohen and it really is him. He told me why he was using this blogger profile instead of the other one and it made sense to me. I was a little concerned, but, sure enough, it is the real him.

Anonymous said...

Okay, just wondering.