Republican lawmaker calls for citizen commission to set pay for elected officials, including legislators

10/07/2013 03:37 PM

Republican Rep. Dwight Butler of Harned wants to give a commission of Kentucky citizens the ability to control the pay of elected officials in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

That structure is similar to what Washington state devised in 1987 when its legislature put the issue before voters through a constitutional amendment.

For Butler, who has served in the Kentucky House since 1995, the issue gives citizens an extra set of checks and balances to express whether they believe legislators, and other elected officials are doing the right things.

“It goes back to that trust issue, because there again, no legislator really wants to be able to set their salary. Now, it may seem that way to the general public, but that is a bad vote,” Butler said.

When legislators vote to increase their own pay, they build mistrust with voters, Butler told Pure Politics.

However, in a time of almost universal distrust of public officials — especially in Washington — the proposition of citizens approving and setting pay for legislators might be unnerving for some in public office.

In a recent CNN poll, congressional job approval is at an all-time low, with just 10 percent of Americans polled telling CNN they approve of the job they’re doing. Consequently Congressional salaries are twice what they were in 1987.

Rank-and-file members of the Kentucky state legislature earned $100 per working day in 1997, that increased to $188.22 in 2013 effectively increasing pay 88 percent over 17 years. While the increase seems substantial non-leadership members only make $12,000 to $15,000 per year.

For Butler though giving citizens the ability to set pay is how the system should be set up.

“I trust what the people will do,” Butler said. “I think the people have common sense.”

The proposal would have to clear the House and Senate by three-fifths majorities to be added to the November 2014 ballot as a constitutional amendment for ratification by the voters.

“It would take something out of our hands that we don’t need,“Butler said.

While he will still work to pass the legislation this upcoming session, it will be his last. Butler announced last month he will not seek re-election in 2014.

Butler told Ryan Alessi the atmosphere in Frankfort amid sexual harassment allegations played a small part in his decision to not seek re-election, but he said the decision came down to family.

“Mainly it was just the family and the business. I feel like I have been neglecting them for a long time, and I really have. And it’s just been hard on them,” Butler said.

For more on Butler’s thoughts on the culture, investigations, and allegations against lawmakers accused of sexual harassment and retribution against staffers watch the video below:


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