Elected officials should suffer, too
Kim Poindexter, Tahlequah Daily Press
For anyone who's up to snuff on' current events, it's a real challenge to deny the hypocrisy running rampant at the Oklahoma statehouse.
This week, officials announced that Cherokee County, among others, will be losing a valuable asset with the closure of its Child Guidance Center. Furloughs are being taken left and right, and many of the same Oklahomans who last month were rallying for tax cuts are now realizing some cherished service or another their families depended on is being eliminated or slashed. About the only thing to be said in this regard: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
The state Senate earlier this week finally offered its own version of "sacrifice," by announcing its employees will be taking 12 unpaid furlough days between July and December. Considering that furloughs have become commonplace in the public sector, this is not unusual, and given the current circumstances, it's not unfair.
What's repulsive in the extreme is the fact that the senators themselves, and other elected officials, will not suffer one iota during the economic crisis that has plagued the rest of us.
Though Senate leaders were all too willing to slice into the pay of their employees, they have not volunteered to cut their own salaries.
And, as we already know, Oklahoma's collective contingent rakes in more — in combined salary, benefits and 'per diem — than just about any legislative body in the country. In fact, when the Daily Press conducted an investigation of legislative pay in 2006, at that time, Oklahoma was at the top of the benefit and pay scale, when considering they only spend a few months "working" for us. (Other states' legislators made more in total, but are in session full-time.)
As for the House of Representatives, furloughs aren't yet on the table for its employees. According to Speaker Chris Benge, they've taken several cost-cutting measures, including restrictions on hiring and out-of-state travel. Wow, we're impressed; every private business made that move back in late 2008.
Oklahomans didn't feel the pain of the economic meltdown as quickly as their counterparts in other parts of the country, but now the hurt is upon us, full-bore and across the board. About the only ones who seem to be maintaining status quo above the fray are our elected representatives.
As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"
We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Cherokee County's legislative contingent is a diamond in the rough. We only wish voters in the rest of the counties would wise up and plant well-deserved boots in the posteriors of the greedy, out-of-touch representatives they've foisted upon the rest of us.
We need people at the statehouse who are like us, and who share our pain as well as our hopes and dreams. And with a few notable exceptions, we ain't got that.
Posted on Mon, June 21, 2010
by Jennifer Gilliland