During this holiday season, I'm a humor columnist who's thankful for the Gift That Never Stops Giving: Utah's very own state government.
"But, Don," you would doubtless ask, "how do you narrow it down to one joke, given the wide array from which to choose when regarding Beehive State government shenanigans?"
To which I respond: Just read the newspaper.
Specifically, this quote from a recent news story in the Standard-Examiner: "In a report released Tuesday afternoon, the state's elected official and judicial compensation committee renewed its 2012 recommendation (that) the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor all be granted a 36.5 percent increase.
"The proposed increase would bump the governor's salary from $109,000 a year to $150,000 a year and raise the salaries of the other four officials from $104,400 a year to $142,500 a year. Salaries of the state executive branch have not been raised for more than a decade."
By law, members of the aforementioned committee must put their little heads together -- oops, did I say "little"? It appears I did -- and make a recommendation to the Legislature about whether the state's top officials should get raises and, if so, how much.
Lawmakers are not bound by the recommendation and have frequently declined to raise these particular salaries.
So, the stage is set for what could be a fun and informative spectator sport: The Irony Games -- A Test of Common Decency and Fairness. That's because, at the same time Utah's government is debating whether to hike the aforementioned elected officers' salaries by 36.5 percent, minimum-wage workers across this great land have mounted a full-throated cry for a pay raise.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Utahns who earn that are not only high schoolers and college students, but also adults, many with families.
It depends on the person doing the talking, but as near as I can tell, those arguing for a raise would like the minimum wage upped to between $10.50 and $15 per hour.
I don't know where along that spectrum the fair hourly figure resides, but I have a suggestion how to help determine the appropriate number: Imagine yourself in a minimum-wage job, with monthly rent, children to feed and educate, a car to fuel and maintain or a transit pass to purchase, health insurance to buy, and doctor bills to pay.
I am a fan of delicious irony. This situation drips with it.
Fiscal conservatives are all about saving taxpayer money, except when it comes to their own salaries. They are the same people who have warned about what an economic calamity raising the minimum wage will be every time the minimum wage has been raised; so far, their batting average is zero.
I believe it's time to hold the line on elected officials' salaries. They should be seeking office for the opportunity to serve, not to chase a handsome paycheck.
In fact, try this one on for size: During the campaigns, let's have candidates bid for how LITTLE they'd be willing to accept as pay for their service. I might be more inclined to vote for someone who promises to decline part -- or ALL -- of his or her salary.
Better yet, let's have them work for the federal minimum wage.
Too drastic, you say?
OK, then, let's make it simple and link any pay increases of state executives, going forward, to the federal minimum wage.
Henceforth, from the governor on down -- heck, toss in counties and cities, too -- nobody in the public sector should ever get a raise higher than the percentage given to minimum-wage workers. That'll do for me. How about you?
Email Don at email@example.com.