That didn’t take long. A week after floating a plan to raise their salaries by 26 percent and bring the county executive, county clerk and sheriff along for the ride with significant pay increases as well, Orange County legislators have apparently seen the light and abandoned the plan.
Well, it’s more like they’ve heard the sound of angry voters than seen the light of their own consciences. Since the pay balloon was floated at a committee meeting late last month, legislators have “all been getting a lot calls” opposing it, according to Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia. Even a modified plan, apparently intended to mollify taxpayers, ran into public opposition. And County Executive Steve Neuhaus, whose salary is already higher than the governor’s, said he didn’t want a raise and would veto any bill containing one.
Poof! Brescia told legislators earlier this week to forget the pay raise.
It’s amazing what can happen when taxpayers/voters tell elected officials they expect them to live up to their word, or, in this case, their predecessors’ word. The typical approach to voting for pay raises — never easy, as several legislators pointed out — is for an outgoing legislature to vote new salaries for the incoming legislature. Even though many faces will be the same, each member at least has to face election and gain voter approval and so is not directly giving him or herself a raise. And everyone knows the salary the job carries.
In 2016, legislators voted to give no raises for the entire term of legislators who would be elected in 2017 and take office in 2018. That means the $30,000 base salary they ran on would stay in effect until 2022. With a bunch of new faces in the legislature, however, someone — no one is saying who — decided that was too long to wait. A committee first voted for a 26 percent raise ($7,800), then, hearing rumblings from taxpayers, amended it to 9 percent/3 percent/3 percent over the next three years.
Wiser heads prevailed, at least for now. Along with the legislators’ raise, a boost for the county clerk of $28,000, to $135,000, also has apparently been dropped. Seeing as the clerk, Annie Rabbitt, ran for reelection just last year for her current salary and seeing as she is now running for the State Senate seat opened up by the retirement of John Bonacic, this pay boost proposal seems more like a cushion for Rabbitt if she loses or a nice reward for whichever Republican Party faithful is named to replace her.
The only apparent survivor of the pay plan is Sheriff Carl Dubois. If it is presented and passed at today’s legislature meeting, he would get a raise of $11,000 and subsequent annual raises to put the sheriff’s salary at $168,000 in 2022. While these are arguably justified raises for the post, they also amount to raises for Dubois directly since the three-term sheriff is running unopposed for re-election this year. But that’s a problem for Democrats to figure out since voters have spoken clearly in this case as well.