They say timing is everything…

But the WEA is way off beat comparing mandated pay increases for legislators to COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increases for educators. The legislators have no say as to when, or how much, their pay raises are. These decisions are made and handed down by the independent Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

To emphasize, there is no parallel to be drawn between salary raises for legislators and COLA increases for educators that are voted on by the legislature. Apples to Oranges.

From the Commission’s website:

Background on Salary Decisions

Our philosophy is that the best way to have a sound salary structure is to review salaries regularly and make needed adjustments or small increases on a consistent basis.

Some citizens believe that the state’s elected officials are overpaid. This may, in part, be due to the fact that the salaries of other public officials in the state are rarely in the news, making it difficult for the public to compare those salaries.

We believe that it is important to keep state elected officials’ salaries in line with other public officials’ salaries in the state.

  • Many public employees such as city or county administrators, port districts, school districts, and some state agency directors are paid more than Executive Branch elected officials.
  • Many people believe that our legislature is a part-time body requiring them to be in Olympia for a few months each year.  The reality is that being a legislator is a year-around job that in Washington is estimated to take approximately 70% of an individual’s time. Legislators have testified before us that it has become more and more difficult to find employers who are willing to hire them because of the amount of time required to perform their legislator job. We have also heard that only the financially secure are able to serve.
  • Perhaps our greatest responsibility, as well as the decision involving the largest number of officials and total dollars, is to maintain adequate salaries to attract and retain competent judges. Data and testimony presented to us indicates not only that judges earn less than a large percentage of private-sector attorneys from whose ranks most of them come as well as less than some public sector attorneys. And in recent years a number of experienced judges have left the bench to work in private arbitration and mediation firms where they can make much more money. Although private sector compensation levels are not practical, our increases helps maintain relative salary levels and encourages experienced judges to remain in public service. Our judicial system has a reputation for integrity, and realistic salaries are one factor helping to maintain that integrity. We have heard persuasive testimony from the Judiciary as well as the findings of a consultant report that the most appropriate bench mark for the state’s judiciary is the Federal bench.

Each volunteer, citizen salary commissioner puts in many hours of service to reach thoughtful, non-political conclusions that serve the public by setting salaries that reflect the duties of the job and attract and retain high quality people in public service. (Emphasis our own).

It is important still to note that, while legislators are receiving salary increases, educators have not gone without increases of their own. According to Senator John Braun’s (R- Centralia) Economic Sense, and public record analysis,  “The vast majority of state employees are being compensated higher than four years ago.  In fact, their salaries have risen faster than inflation.”

Hopefully, all these factors and more will be taken into consideration- fostering an informed and intelligent debate on educator pay- as we move forward in this special session.