By Cornell Woolridge
Who earns more money, a gas station cashier or a Texas State House Representative? Seems like a pretty simple question right? A gas station cashier does not have to supervise staff, doesn’t work in multiple offices and doesn’t influence the legislative policy for the second largest state in the country. One would think the Texas State House Representative earns more, right?
If you were to compare the monthly pay of a Texas State Rep. to anyone who makes at least minimum wage however, Texas State Reps comes out a loser every time. Texas State Reps get paid $600 a month while in session. Someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr working a 40 hour week makes $1,160 monthly, about twice that of a state rep.
Say what you will about how well Texas State Reps do their job, but surely even the most basic performing state rep deserves to make at least minimum wage, right? What does it say about a state government that asks people to serve their state as a representative but believes that service isn’t even worth the state minimum wage?
Some might argue elected office is about service and not about making money. I agree with the idea, but disagree with the execution, especially when considering the realities of what is required of elected officials at any given time. Let’s say the service over making money rationale is the cause of the sub-minimum wage pay for state representatives. According to Ballotpedia, the Lieutenant Governor gets paid comparably to the state legislature. The Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Governor by comparison all get annual salaries of $130,000 or more.
The honor to serve in of itself should be enough payment for the State Legislature and Lieutenant Governor. Why is it not the same for the Secretary of State, Attorney General or Governor though? Are we supposed to be okay with asking our state legislators to be independently wealthy or have a partner who makes enough to support a household while the state rep. is serving the wildly varying needs of constituents in her or his district?
How does this do anything but create legislators with priorities split between serving their respective district and being sure they can keep the lights on in their own homes? How can legislators live like this and really hope to give their districts the representation they deserve?
Woolridge is the founder of CivicSolve.com.