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TEXAS AFL-CIO President Joe Gunn frames the debate over a legislative pay increase in terms that most working people in the state will understand. The issue, as Gunn defines it, is one of reasonable compensation for labor performed. “We ask these people to come to Austin, rent an apartment, maintain two households, work long hours. And we pay them less than what it costs them to live.” According to Gunn, and other proponents of the legislative pay increase that will appear as the first of 21 proposed constitutional amendments on the November 7 ballot, an increase in legislators’ salaries will serve as an antecedent to the urgently needed ethics reform that will follow. We can’t impose limits on lobby contributions to legislators, nor expect legislators to resist the inducements offered by the lobby, until they earn enough to live comfortably without the financial support of lobbyists, Gunn said in an interview at the AFL-CIO offices in early August. Gunn’s argument reflects the prevailing conventional wisdom in Austin. Senators and Representatives will not be so easily seduced by the corporate lobby once they are provided sufficient salaries and living expenses. \(The public interest lobby here lacks both sufficient means and the ethical predisposition that allow for the buying of along on a cynical current of economic determinism: that is, that the deprived will inevitably become the depraved. Because legislators are not provided with sufficient income, they accept golf trips to Hawaii, ski trips to Utah, and other lobby-funded meals and deals in Austin. But public financing of government and ethics reform are separate, though related, issues. A legislative pay raise is justified because the Texas Legislature is no longer the body of volunteer public servants envisioned by the authors of the 1876 constitution. The Legislature is rarely able to complete its business within the regular 140-day sessions established by the constitution. One Legislature in 20 years, the 66th, met for only 140 days. All others have been called back for one or more special sessions. And some legislators, such as Ernestine Glossbrenner, D-Alice, and Lena Guerrero, D-Austin, work year-round at what the Texas Constitution describes as a part-time job. Texas currently pays its lawmakers $7,200 per year. In take-home pay that amounts to $398 per month a figure supplemented by per diem and office expense accounts. The proposed amendment would replace that constitutionally fixed figure with a provision establishing legislative salaries at one-fourth of what the Governor earns each year. Based on the current governor’s salary of $93,432 a figure set by the Legislature -Representatives and Senators would see their pay increase from the current $7,200 to $23,385. Amendment 11 on the November 7 ballot would eliminate the current $30 per diem limit and in its place include language that ties per diem payments to the allowed federal income tax deduction for per diem THE RELATIONSHIP between the legislative pay raise and the corporate lobby is best defined by Tom Smith, the Director of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nadar. According to Smith, the issue is one of ownership of the Legislature. “Who is paying for the legislators’ lifestyle in Austin, “Smith asked. “It isn’t the voters, so tell me, who owns the Legislature?” The answer of course, is the corporate lobby, which according to an Austin AmericanStatesman copyrighted story, last year poured $4 million into compaign coffers and officeholder accounts of the 47 committee chairpersons of the 71st Legislature. Lobbyists and political action committees contributed 63 percent of the $4 million, with the remainder made up by law firms and individual contributors. Only 16 of those 47 chairpersons had opponents or were raising political contributions to run for statewide offices. An additional $1.86 million was spent on drinks, meals, and other gifts during the 140-day regular legislative session. Money contributed to legislators is disbursed through their office-holder accounts. The most egregious but apparently legal abuse of such an account also was documented by the American Statesman. The Statesman reported that Killeen Rep. Stan Schlueter, who has since resigned, was spending $9,000 per month to rent a house, pay for private plane, lease cars, hand out scholarships, buy prize-winning animals at regional livestock shows, and pay miscellaneous statements. Schlueter, who now becomes something of a poster boy for reform, was doing considerably more than using lobby money to compensate for his low legislative salary. He announced that he was retiring “so that server SEPTEMBER \\Obi’ SEPTEMBER 29, 1989 VOLUME 81, No. 19 FEATURES From Boston to Austin By Ronnie Dugger 4 Toxic Texas Top Forty By Ronnie Dugger 5 Old Democrats, New Democrats By John R. Bauer 8 Regents Win, Grad Students Lose By Greg Moses 10 Perestroika Where the Air is Clear By Leon Lazaroff DEPARTMENTS 12 Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Political Intelligence 16 Social Cause Calendar 22 Books and the Culture All For the Right Thing By Michael King Rough Justice By Brett Campbell 18 19 Afterword Orientation for the Occidental Tourist By Tom McClellan 23 he could earn a living.” And he wasn’t being ironic. According to a recent poll commissioned by , the Dallas Morning News, 51 percent of the electorate opposes the pay raise, while only 31 percent support it. And the issue doesn’t have a good record at the polls, where it has passed only four of 21 times it has been on the ballot. All of this is unfortunate. We will agree with Joe Gunn: a legislative pay increase is needed because legislators are not fairly compensated for what is requested of them. A pay increase also represents an opportunity for the people to reclaim something of their government. Ethics reform is necessary because what is currently permissible is antithetical to good government. L.D. EDITORIAL Government For Hire THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3