Friday, September 02, 2011

From the "Goofus & Gallant" file.

Representative Gallant and his cousin Senator Gallant are members of the bi-partisan group of legislators who, in a spirit of shared sacrifice, have voluntarily taken the 3% pay cut the budget has imposed on most state workers.

Representative Goofus? That would be Spokane Republican John Ahern, who says...
...he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.

“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support....
It's hard to catalog how many things are wrong with this. The lack of civic spirit and responsibility in a public official is distressing. Ahern clearly doesn't grasp what it means to be a part of a community in a democratic system, let alone a member of the government.

It's his choice, of course, whether or not to participate in the pay cut. Legislators aren't among the highest paid state employees, and a 3% cut would represent a varying level of hardship, since some are less dependent on their state salaries than others. That doesn't appear to be an issue for Rep. Ahern, though, if he sincerely intends to give away his 3% to the charities of his choice.

The state workers have no such options, of course. Their cut goes to the general fund, to be spent on the general welfare. In Washington, the greatest part of the budget is our K-12 schools system. Is that the program doesn't support? Some part goes to our colleges and universities. Is that where Rep. Ahern balks?

Or is it medical care for poor children? Food support for hungry families? Job training? Care for the elderly and disabled? Disaster relief and emergency response? Cops? Courts? Jails?

Maybe it's legislative staff and pay? No, I think that's a program Ahern's just fine with.

Rather than let his 3% go to the priorities that have been determined by a democratic process by representatives elected by a vote of the people, Ahern chooses to invest in his private priorities, priorities which, coincidentally, would largely be unlawful recipients of the state money he's spending - money that includes my taxes and that 3% contribution from all of those state employees - if the cash weren't first laundered through his payroll account before being spent on programs and agencies I don't support.

If he wants to keep the cash, fine. It's his business. So is how he spends it.

If he thinks taking the money out of the budget to invest in his own pet projects offers cover for his hypocrisy and civic irresponsibility, or that there's some equivalence with the sacrifice demanded of state workers, though, he's wrong. A public official with so little regard for the public interest would be better off keeping his mouth shut about it.

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Anonymous David G. said...

I sent a note to the Spokesman writer encouraging him to write that article, after chatting with John Ahern. Ahern won't even guarantee that his 2011 and 2012 charitable contributions will be higher than his 2010 donations --- meaning that he's unlikely to even give the 3% to charity.

8:04 PM  

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