Washington state citizens’ commission on salaries for elected officials

Washington law establishes the Washington state citizens’ commission on salaries for elected officials which

[s]tudies the relationship of salaries to the duties of members of the legislature, all elected officials of the executive branch of state government, and all judges of the supreme court, court of appeals, superior and district courts, and shall fix the salary for each position.

Number of appointments by Governor: 16

Term in Years: 4

Compensation: Expenses only

Qualification: Members are selected by lot by the Secretary of State from registered voters in each congressional district, each of which has one representative member. The other members are selected jointly by the speaker of the house and the president of the senate, and their names are submitted to the Governor for appointment. Five members must have experience in personnel management, one each from the following sectors: business, professional personnel management, legal profession, organized labor, private institution of higher education; one recommended by the state Personnel Resource Board; and one recommended by majority vote of the presidents of the state’s four-year institutions of higher education. No member may serve more than two full terms.

Number of yearly meetings: 6

12 Responses

  1. It turns out that Oregon has a similar arrangement:

    The Legislature created the Public Officials Compensation Commission in 1983, and gave it the job of recommending salaries for many of the state’s elected officials. Over the years the commission became inactive, and the Legislature set the salaries by passing laws with the Governor’s approval.

    In 2007, the Legislature reactivated the Commission and broadened its authority based on a recommendation from the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature. The current Public Officials Compensation Commission is an 11-member commission with the directive to recommend the salary amounts for:
    • The Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Commissioner of Labor and Industries
    • Members of the Legislative Assembly, including the majority and minority leadership positions
    • The Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court; the Chief Judge and Judges of the Court of Appeals; and the Judges of the Tax Court and Circuit Courts.

    The composition of the Commission is unique. Previously, elected officials appointed all Commission members. Now, a majority of the Commission members are randomly selected Oregonians. Beginning in 2008 the law called for Commissioners to be appointed in the following manner:
    • Two members appointed by the Governor
    • One member appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
    • One member appointed by the President of the Senate
    • One member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives
    • Six members appointed by the Secretary of State chosen by lot from voter registration records – one from each Congressional district and one statewide.


  2. Why not just go to the Paris Commune model on compensation?


  3. Is this the “workman wages” model? That should be up to the committee to decide. The real question, I think, is why not just do away with elected positions altogether.


  4. By the way, the Washington committee has set the legislators’ salaries at levels that are similar to the median working individual income in the US.


  5. Why only legislators? Why not executive officials? Why not senior civil servants?

    I agree with your demarchic assessment, but since the thrust of the topic was wages, I should reassert that addressing the problem at the level of wages isn’t enough. What’s next is a mouthful, but it has to be reasserted:

    All political and related administrative offices should operate on the basis of occupants’ standards of living being at or slightly lower than the median equivalent for professional and other skilled workers.

    On the one hand, formulations that demand compensation for such public officials to be simply no more than “workman’s wage” fail to take into account the historic worker-class demand for legislators to be paid in the first place, first raised by the worker-class Chartists, “thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.”

    On the other hand, even freely elected legislators, many of whom have “moonlighting” or additional sources of income through businesses or unproductive public speeches, tend to increase their collective level of expense allowances beyond the median equivalent associated with professional work.

    A combination of appropriate pay levels and expense allowances, mandated loss of other occupations (since these offices should be full-time positions), employment transition programs for occupants leaving office, and other measures can fulfill this demand.


  6. I should add, though, that for agitational purposes, what’s a mouthful may not be as good as a mere slogan. A mid-aged unionized couple at an Occupy protest had a slogan stating that a particular cabinet minister should personally take a pay cut. I approached them and discussed, without naming names, the two key planks that Engels took from the Paris Commune to deem necessary for a DOTP:

    1) Average skilled workers wage for legislators, cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, etc.
    2) Recallability for all positions above

    They were in agreement.


  7. > I approached them and discussed, without naming names, the two key planks that Engels took from the Paris Commune to deem necessary for a DOTP […]

    Surely Engels missed the mark: those two points can hardly be expected to make a real difference. I wonder what those you talked to would have said if you suggested using sortition.


  8. Engels did miss the mark (only two, but those two are necessary nonetheless), and I would venture the couple would’ve asked what the hell I was talking about, since that would’ve been off-tangent to their cardboard.


  9. Well, as you told the story, Jacob, they didn’t mention recallability either. New ideas can be suggested – we don’t usually wait until they occur independently to each and every person.

    Regarding the necessity of workperson wages and recallibility, I tend to disagree. High wages for delegates (unless truly outrageous) are merely a symptom of corruption, not its cause. And if by recallability you mean what is usually understood by it (a mass-political action, as it already exists in various States in the U.S.), then it suffers from all the shortcomings of elections. Besides, if we are considering eliminating elected offices altogether, then who exactly would be recalled? The allotted delegates? Again, far from being a democratic device, this would be an anti-democratic tool.


  10. The Occupy couple was pissed off at the government’s role in recent union dealings regarding pay cuts.

    Yes, legislators, cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, etc. should be subject to recall, but in cases of abuse of office. Moreover, there should be multiple acceptable ways to yank them out, not just recall referenda. Demarchic comrades Cockshott and Zachariah suggested some sort of popular oversight body with the power of recall.

    For my part, I’m sure you’ve already read my suggestion of the possibility of coupling demarchy with some sort of multi-tiered soviet-like model, so the lower body from which some higher-body representative is randomly selected gets to exercise the recall function. [I don’t like having too many tiers, but the basic idea here is the relationship between the lower body and the higher body in question.]

    I also suggested leading roles for political party-movement machines, with their bureaucracies also being able to pull the plug.


  11. It seems to me that you are using the heading “recall” to refer to different mechanisms, which should not be conflated.

    First, a distinction needs to be made by whether the recall decision is made by a mass body such as the entire citizenry or by an allotted body. A recall referendum, being an instance of mass political activity, cannot be expected to be democratic. Initiating such a referendum and organizing the “yes” or “no” campaigns would be a high resource act that would be controlled by elites. A decision by an allotted body, on the other hand, is potentially democratic in the sense that it is representative.

    The second distinction is regarding the target of the recall. Recall of an allotted delegate would be anti-democratic even if done by an allotted body since it would tend to artificially reduce the representation of minorities. On the other hand, “recall” (really, replacement) of cabinet ministers and civil servants by the representative body that appoints them is a democratic device which allows the representative body to make sure that its policy is carried out faithfully and competently.


  12. A panel appointed by sortition to set the legislators’ salaries may be the right direction but a mixed panel is not in compliance with the rules of good (democratic) craftsmanship ) as we published. Nnot that this rules, as they stand for the moment, are a law of nature like gravity, it is up to us to improve or comment them. https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/criteria-for-the-application-of-sortition-in-a-political-system/
    How should such a “salary” panel look like when we could develop it ourselves (or some in sortition “specialised” people)? (at city level,country level, state level, European union level… )
    What kind of sortition technique is “representative enough” for such a purpose? (how many participants, stratified geographic and demographic, other techiques ?)
    What kind of “decision” technique would be adapted (convene experts and concerned parties, listen to them and decide )


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