Illinois recently elected a billionaire as governor, to replace our previous multimillionaire. The new guy recently [url=https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-met-jb-pritzker-staff-raises-20190111-story.html}
announced that he was going to personally pay to double the salaries of some of his top aides.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I don’t mind wealthy people making donations ostensibly for the public good. On the other, I’m not sure I favor the idea of wealthy officials choosing the priority of various expenditures in this way. I sure would be pissed if I were a state employee whose salary WASN’T being doubled. And does this tilt the balance in favor of electing the wealthiest candidate, in hopes that they will part with some portion of their wealth? Besides, IL is in a hole deep enough that all of Pritzker’s billions couldn’t dig us out.
I note, Pritzker is a D. His predecessor - Rauner-R - donated several millions to fund the restoration of the governor’s mansion in Springfield, which had fallen into disrepair. For some reason, that expenditure did not bother me as much as this, but I’m not sure why. I think the subsidizing of salaries somehow shifts the view that these individuals are more private than public servants. And instead of a donation to a charitable cause (I believe there was a “restore the mansion” fund/foundation), the funding of salaries seems closer to funding policy. I’m not sure I favor policy being comprised of what the wealthiest folk choose to fund at the moment.
Even though these aides may serve at the pleasure of the governor (I assume. I’m not familiar with Illinois law), they are still ostensibly government employees with a loyalty to the government and not a single individual (Yeah, I know. HA HA.) By doing this, Pritzker isn’t even giving a fig leaf to that story. Their loyalty is to him, and him alone. Let’s take another example. Donald Trump says, “You know what? I think Robert Mueller is underpaid. I’m going to use my own money to give him a bonus of 5 million dollars.” Would that ring any alarm bells? Yeah. Or if he and his rich friends decided to pay for the wall, themselves. You OK with that?
No matter what side you’re on, some things are decided legislatively and SHOULD be whether or not you agree with the outcome. Government employee salary is one of those things.
I agree that the prospect of personally paying aides is a perversion of the process. Fundamentally, the aids work for the state, not for the individual who is governor (a fine distinction). Similarly, there are laws that draw a distinct line between campaign money and activities, and governing activities and funds. But then, Illinois has a robust history of politicians testing the boundaries of these things!
Regarding the prior governor contributing to rehabbing the mansion, I agree that that is a fairly straightforward contribution to benefit the state, even though it tangentially benefits the individual residing in the governors mansion.
I haven’t really looked deeply into this, and haven’t read anything other than the Trib, but I haven’t seen any commentary or anything in that paper questioning this expenditure. Struck me as odd. I’ll ask a friend of mine who writes an opinion column for them when I see him over the weekend.
Let’s take a more controversial example. Suppose there’s a program with a lot of public opposition that the legislature cuts off funding for it to shut it down. And the executive says “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to keep the program going by funding it out of my own pocket.”
Smitty made the basic point; the government should be ultimately answerable to the people. But when an individual starts privately funding a government program or government employees, they’re placing that part of the government beyond elected control.
And Smitty made the other essential point; if a private citizen offered to give a large sum of money to a public official, it would be bribery. It’s not much different when an elected official offers to give a large sum to a public official.
Or it could be a program that has public support, but for whatever reasons, the legislators do not want to support. The governor could fund it and then - come re-election time - say vote for me or this program will end.
That’s what I was thinking- let’s say a rich mayor decides that he’ll pay for free water for all out of his own pocket. People get used to that after a while.
Then when he’s up for re-election, he’s got the ability to say in effect, “vote for me, or you’ll start having to pay for your water again, and what’s more, to spin up the water billing service that we’ve let atrophy.”
I think it depends on exactly what is being funded. Individual people’s salaries- nope. Projects/policies/agencies that really only operate with public funding like police initiatives or paying taxes or fees that are normally paid by individuals or businesses- nope. No contributing to mass transit so they can keep the fares down or paying everyone’s water bills.
Funding community organizations that are normally funded by some combination of government money and charitable donations like senior citizens centers or park recreation programs - fine.
I think my dividing line is whether I can imagine a non-politician billionaire doing the same thing out of altruism - and I can’t see that billionaire giving money to the transit system to keep fares down for everyone. I can imagine the non-politician contributing money to an organization that provides bus fare to those who can’t afford it, so I have no problem with the politician doing the same.
So in sum, the answer is “If it’s good enough for the Romans…” and “yes” to reinstating gladiator fights (arguably pro athletes of any popular stripe are our modern day gladiators - phenomenally famous, overpaid, and at the peak of physical ability, out there risking their bodies with the real chance of injury and losing it all. It was a very rare thing for gladiators to fight to the death anyways, given they were so well compensated and expensive to train up to a high skill level).
Folk here had some good objections re loyalty to the person rather than the office, but c’mon, like that doesn’t happen anyways 80%+ of the time? Maybe there should just be carve-outs such that our pols can only fund festivals, moments, parks, enduring public works, and entertainments.
Our country is run by and for millionaires / billionaires anyways, we the public might as well get SOMETHING out of the deal!
This is wrong and should not be allowed. We the people should pay through taxes the people working for us. They should not be taking money from an individual for doing their jobs.
Also why should the governor get to choose on his own which public servants deserve more money? What about people By the welcoming hips of Innana! Aren’t lucky enough to work in close proximity with him?
Yes, you got an appointment as a Governor out in some province of the Empire. You were supposed to maintain order, recruit troops for the legions, and collect taxes. And you were supposed to be self-funding; you were expected to keep a portion of the taxes you collected to cover the costs of administering the province. It was accepted that Governors would collect and keep an extra amount for their personal accounts.
So appointments as a Governor were highly coveted. But there was a downside; you ended up working away from Rome, which was where all of the important political decisions were being made. So ambitious people wanted to get an appointment as Governor, plunder the province quickly and build up a fortune, and then get back to Rome as soon as possible.
I have personal experience with this. I am a school band director – a classroom teacher on the district’s organizational chart. At a previous employer, I worked with another band director. A paraprofessional (a teacher’s aide) was also assigned to our band program. I asked the para to photocopy some materials for me for a class. She did this. Later, I observed the other band director become irate that this happened.
I asked the para what had happened. She tearfully told me that the other band director had been paying her $800 per month out of his own pocket. She was therefore being paid by our school district and being paid an extra stipend by this other band director. He had become irate because she was following my instructions on an equal basis with his own. He believed that his instructions should be more important and the should ignore/refuse any requests made by me.
So, our employer, the school’s board of trustees, believed that they were funding an employee to assist both of us. My coworker, using money that I believed he had actually stolen from elsewhere, had usurped the relationship between the para and her employer. When admin found out, both eventually became unemployed.
Using private money to interfere with the relationship between a public employee and the public employer is wrong in every sense and can lead to problems.
Privately funding aides generates disparity. In the Commonwealth and I assume the US, both sides of politics get aides paid for from the public purse no matter who is in power according to a formula. But if one side starts using private wealth to supplement their staff, an obvious inequity arises that the previous formula was designed to avoid.
Salaries is where it gets iffy for me. As has been noted above (several times) when part of the salary comes from the state then they need to be neutral. But I wouldn’t mind people employing the aides directly - funding their salaries, pensions, etc, so long as he or she is personally responsible for those aides and they do not have governmental responsibilities. Here in the UK we have a bit of an issue with ‘special advisors’ employed - on large salaries - by the political parties at the taxpayers’ expense.