Former lawmaker's view: Lawmakers’ pay should be decided by othersThe media like to report about the private lives of actors, athletes and politicians. Unfortunately, legislators are still waging political battles about their pay.
By: Mike Jaros, Duluth News Tribune
Roxanne R. Wilmes’ June 2 Local View column, “Hypocrisy evident in lawmakers’ pay,” rehashed the controversy of legislative compensation.
I recall the late Rep. Willard Munger saying that when he was elected in 1954 legislative pay was $500 per legislative session without any housing allowance. Someone let him sleep on a couch from January through May while he was in St. Paul. When I got elected in 1972, the pay was $4,800 per year. The year before I was elected I was making $8,900 teaching in a parochial high school.
I also remember the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition coming to the Capitol to advocate for low-income people, saying that my family size was considered poor based on my salary. I did not feel indigent, as we always lived the way we had to, not the way we wanted. We paid for our children’s school lunches even if they were eligible to get them free because I did not want it to become an issue.
The media like to report about the private lives of actors, athletes and politicians. Unfortunately, legislators are still waging political battles about their pay. I always have felt uncomfortable deciding my pay. So I do agree with those who advocate a change.
Wilmes wrote that being a legislator should be a public-service job. The only way that could be is to elect wealthy people. I believe our elected officials should represent Minnesota citizens: rich, middle class and indigent, plus men and women of different races and minorities.
Legislative positions are pretty much full-time since lawmakers have annual sessions and local and regional meetings and are constantly busy with constituent phone calls, e-mails and letters. Minnesota House members have elections every two years, which means campaigning from May until November. I had to go door-to-door during my campaigns since I never received enough campaign contributions to pay for advertising. My first campaign cost me only $436 while my opponent spent about $5,000. I won because I knocked on 10,000 doors. I did that while working almost full-time and also while going to summer school, teaching and spending very little time with my family.
Mike Jaros of Duluth represented District 7B in the Minnesota Legislature for more than 30 years, resigning in 2008.