A projected $800 million to $1 billion budget shortfall has prompted Gov. Sonny Perdue to call for a 5-percent cut in every state agency budget, and locally matters are just as tough with Augusta commissioners raising taxes for the second straight year to get their budget in balance.
With this dismal economic backdrop, state Rep. Henry Howard, D-Augusta, says he'll be seeking legislative approval to raise salaries for some city officials, in particular the mayor and city commissioners.
"I don't feel the (commission's) or the mayor's salary is fair, compared to the administrator or others," said Howard. "The mayor is making $65,000 and the administrator is making over ($127,000). That's unfair. The (commission) is making $12,000 spending four days a week down here. I think that needs to be looked at."
Look at it, but don't change it - not until after the next election. The commissioners and Mayor Bob Young knew what the salary was when they ran for the job - and that's all the salary they're entitled to until their current term expires.
If Howard really thinks the mayor and commissioners are underpaid because the city administrator and others running the local government are paid so much more, then he must think the latter are paid too much. Yet it's the commissioners who set salaries, so they must think Administrator George Kolb and other top managers are worth it.
There are a couple of other flaws in Howard's thinking. If the mayor's and commissioners' salaries are to grow along with the administrators', then it gives the commission an incentive to raise those salaries as high as possible. That's no good for taxpayers, nor will it bridge budget shortfalls.
Finally, there's the question of whether the commission has earned a pay raise. We doubt if most hard-pressed taxpayers would agree that they have. Hopefully, city commissioners will do such a good job in the coming year that by 2005 public opinion will be in favor of a raise.