Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Public Service Announcement for Congressional Candidates

As the campaigns go into high gear, candidates may forget some of their own personal obligations. Fortunately, some government agencies, such as Blue Earth County, want to make sure that everyone knows that Second Half Property Taxes are due October 15th. Now, I don’t know if Olmsted County issues PSA, but please remind Dr. Brian Davis that taxes are due. After all, according to Olmsted County property records Dr. Davis has had ten late payments since 2003.

Davis should not be singled out as the only deliquent payer as current Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) was fined for paying her 2003 property taxes late. Adhering to deadlines may be a problem for Bachmann as she was deliquent in filing her Personal Financial Disclosure Report this year. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the “Ethics Committee” as it is commonly called) policy is that there is a fine of $200 for failure to submit it by the due date. Voters should not only remind Bachmann to pay her property taxes but also the fine for late filing of her Personal Financial Disclosure Report.

With the salary that a member of Congress receives (which is currently $169,300 per year), paying property taxes should not be a hardship. Based on past practices of increasing Congressional pay based on increasing all federal employees pay, their pay will go up as President Bush has issued his budget proposal for 2009 which includes a 2.9% increase.

In light of the current financial crisis, should Congress give themselves a raise ?

A recent CQ Politics article describes how the political parties hoodwink the public.
• Each party would get roughly three-fifths of its members to vote to keep the pay raise and allow two-fifths of its members to vote “no” (some members always skip the vote).
• Senior members and those who had safe re-election races could vote for the pay raise and those who might fall victim to voter anger could avoid the tough vote without endangering the increase for everyone else.

The CQ article may be based on some fact, but Minnesotans know that some politicians operate differently. Senator Paul Wellstone donated his salary increases to charity. First District Congressman Tim Walz (Dr. Davis’ opponent) goes one step further … not only did Walz not accept a salary increase but in 2007 he returned approximately 7 percent of his Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA). Every member of the House of Representatives receives an annual MRA allowance to fund his or her office activities which in 2007 totaled roughly $1.4 million.

Not only should Congress not accept a raise, they should decrease their pay to the rate that was in effect the last time there was budget surpluses … 2000. And they should follow Walz’ lead and reduce their MRA and not use tele-town hall meetings (as Bachmann and John Kline do) which are just public expenditures for their re-election efforts.

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