The Albuquerque Journal this week published candidate responses to its 14-question survey from the four Republicans running to be the next governor of New Mexico. In coming weeks, we will be analyzing various responses through a Conservative lens. With so much overlap between the GOP candidates — on education, securing the border, crime, etc. — we will be focusing specifically on divergent views. We start with the question of a paid Legislature.
QUESTION: “New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?”
- Mark Ronchetti: “Until the Legislature deals with pressing issues like crime, fentanyl overdoses, securing our border, and improving our schools, I don’t see why we should give them a pay raise.”
- Rebecca Dow: “No, New Mexico is 50th in education and employment meaning the Legislature hasn’t yielded results worthy of pay from New Mexican taxpayers. We shouldn’t be rewarding bad government.”
- Greg Zanetti: “No, but I would support term limits. Too many of our legislators have become entrenched and no longer represent the will of the people. We need fresh voices and fewer career politicians who are beholden to special interest groups.”
- Jay Block: “While in theory, a citizen legislature is ideal, unfortunately having unpaid legislators results in only the wealthy being able to afford to be in office. I would be open to paying legislators a fair wage to attract common sense middle class New Mexicans.”
Ronchetti and Dow offer a succinct free-market response to this question. New Mexico is broken. Legislators are responsible. Private employers don’t give raises to staff that kills more business than they create. Public employers (taxpayers) shouldn’t either. It’s that simple.
Zanetti’s response jumps topics to term limits but expresses a fair rationale for why he opposes a salaried Legislature.
Block is the only candidate who supports the idea of a paid Legislature, and his rationale is sound. It’s easy to say “you don’t deserve it because you’ve made a trashcan fire of our state,” but it can also be true that a part-time Legislature is difficult to swing for people employed full-time elsewhere. A salaried position would attract new blood. Any change at this point would be positive change.
On the other hand, legislators do receive compensation, at a per diem rate of $194 per day when they’re in session. This past legislative session, lawmakers took home more than $10,000 each for two months of work. That’s more than twice what the average individual in New Mexico makes.
Not every issue is black and white. This is one of them. Different people will fall on different sides of the fence. We’re standing on top of it, because while new blood is needed, taxpayers should not reward bad behavior.
Categories: 2022 Governor's Race
Always torn by this issue. Not at all addressed are the pension benefits of our unpaid legislators. While I don’t expect that the money for two months work is at all adequate for a typical legislator, I suspect they have other resources. That fact suggests that “the common person” can’t afford to run. OTOH, few “common persons” are ever likely to run for office and not because it doesn’t pay well. Takes a person with a strong ego and sense of purpose to attempt a run for office. It isn’t a job in the ordinary sense for most legislators.