Favoritism with state pay raises infuriating

September 29, 2015

No one likes or particularly wants to work for a boss who plays favorites among his employees, lavishing generous raises on the in-crowd and pinching pennies with everyone else.

So it’s disheartening – make that infuriating – to learn that the bosses Delawareans have hired for our state government, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the General Assembly, are spreading scarce state dollars around among members of their political staffs, while keeping a tight rein on the salaries of those who keep us safe, nurse our sick, pave our roads, and do the other jobs that help make Delaware special.

To give favored legislative staffers pay hikes of up to 16 percent while denying rank-and-file state employees even the 1 percent raise proposed by Gov. Jack Markell is a grotesque abuse of power.

Perhaps just as bad, we’re learning that all this happened months ago, engineered behind the scenes by lawmakers who doubtless took care to hide it because they knew voters would find it outrageous.

Secret deals have no place in democratic society. How can we the people hold our elected officials accountable, if we do not know what is going on behind closed doors?

With stunts like that, is it any surprise that 76 percent of people no longer trust the government to do the right thing?

Secrecy invites corruption, but as Justice Brandeis famously put it, “Sunlight is ... the best of disinfectants.”

We need transparency, not back-room deals; government for the common good, not special favors for the well-connected. We need leaders committed to democratic values, to openness and dialogue, reason and accountability, equality and basic fairness. In the context of the entire state budget, the $140,000 in raises at the General Assembly might be no big deal economically.

But it sends a message about the culture of power in Dover that voters will want to keep in mind at the next legislative election.

Claire Snyder-Hall
Program director
Common Cause Delaware


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