Talk to your lawmaker: Should state officials make more?

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently complained to the Detroit Free Press that the pay gap between her salary and those of the Michigan Supreme Court justices is too wide — and it’s getting wider.

The Free Press reported that the State Officers Compensation Commission recently recommended hiking Supreme Court justice pay to $207,780 a year, up from $181,483. But the commission recommended continuing a 20-year pay freeze for other state elected officials, including the attorney general, who makes $112,410 a year.

Nessel told the Free Press that the relatively low pay for her office discourages all but the wealthiest attorneys from even considering running for attorney general. Lawyers burdened with student loan debt and trying to take care of a family can’t afford to be attorney general, she said, and the state is missing out on some potentially worthy candidates because of that.

The Legislature ultimately approves pay increases for the state’s elected officials.

We think it’s a bad thing if Nessel’s right and only independently wealthy people run for public office. The state needs quality candidates with quality ideas who understand the needs of Michiganders.

But we also believe that public service need not necessarily be a money-maker, especially since those salaries come on the backs of taxpayers. We believe those who serve the public ought to do so because they want to make a difference for their communities or for the state, not because they want to earn a high salary.

Just like any employer, lawmakers must balance those two dynamics — paying enough to attract quality candidates but not so much that it overburdens taxpayers’ wallets — when deciding what to pay themselves and other elected officials.

Those decisions ought to be based in part on what you have to say.

We urge readers to contact their lawmakers and tell them what you believe the sweet spot for elected officials’ pay ought to be.


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