Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time to Dump the Double Dippers

Delaware is a small state but not as small as our General Assembly makeup might have you believe. Many legislators work for government, are a product of a public union or work in places that receive taxpayer funding. This is simply unacceptable. While tens of thousands of Delawareans are struggling to find work, our state General Assembly members hold two cushy government jobs paying full-time wages. Some legislators have complained about their current salaries which average over $42,750 (Plus a separate stipend of more than $7,000 added to their paychecks for constituent communications), saying that the number is not sufficient to find “decent people”. I’m not sure where these folks are working but for me, $50,000 is full time pay and I know plenty of decent people making at or below that for 12 months of work. Our General Assembly is the 12th highest paid state legislature and among the 41 states whose legislative bodies meet for part time sessions, Delaware ranks 3rd in legislative pay. They serve in Dover from Jan 8th – July 1st and during that time they are actually in Dover on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from around 2PM to 6PM (with a few exceptions when they stay later). The final days of session are usually the most hectic and legislators have been known to stay in Dover well into the night, sometimes till 1AM working on Delaware’s spending bills and budgets. Even with the gravity of their jobs and the rare late hours, I find it hard to justify ANY increase in their already over generous “part-time” pay.

Yet, after State Senator Tony DeLuca’s work records with the Department of Labor were sealed from the News Journal, a spotlight was shone on a problem that is rampant in Dover and the call for higher pay for legislators has begun to grow louder. Senator DeLuca , Representative John Viola and Representative Helene Keeley (all Democrats) are all merit employees within the Department of Labor and Attorney General Beau Biden has run cover for them by citing “national security” concerns among other wild reasons why we the public shouldn’t know what hours merit employees work at their state jobs. In total, 10 of Delaware’s 62 state legislators have jobs within the state government. More than half of our state legislators are either current or former employees of the state or have a job with an entity that relies on state dollars. Delaware is a small state but aren’t large enough that we don’t need to employ our elected officials in other areas of government? Also, how many of these “double dippers” are involved in voting for bills that provide money to their employers or their agency? This is an issue that works across party lines and something that Republicans, Democrats and Independents are and should be upset about.

Delaware is facing an employment crisis and meanwhile our legislators complain that a salary that many of the more than 30,000 unemployed would love to have is too little as a part time salary. This shows just how out of touch our legislators are with the real world, even such a small state. We can change things and we start by changing our representation. Our first stop, the double dippers, let’s tell them to pick a job or we’ll pick it for them. Finally, when I get to Dover I'll support a bill that precludes state employees from holding office or seeking reelection if they become employed by the state while in office (as Sen. DeLuca did) and I will also seek legislation that precludes legislators who represent entities that rely on state money from serving on committees that fund their employers. - Tony DeLuca's job history - Part time jobs - the issue of double dipping transcends party lines

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