The D.C. Council may be slashing budgets for everything from transportation to education, but when it comes to councilmembers’ compensation, it has stuck to its guns.
In 2006, members of the D.C. Council voted to raise their annual salaries to $115,000, and since then, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) have increased that figure to the current one of $125,000 in annual pay. While the council has chosen such generous raises for its members, the COLA for teachers, police and firefighters was only 0.1 percent in 2009. Councilmembers should be appreciated for their service to the District community, but that does not mean their salaries should be vastly larger than those of other important public servants.
Tough economic times have meant belt-tightening for most in the District, yet members of the D.C. Council are paid more on average than local representatives in every city in the nation except Los Angeles, according to a new report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The D.C. government has embarked on massive spending cuts in the past year, including striking $12 million in funds from the Department of Education — a notoriously under-funded and mismanaged department. The lack of austerity applied to councilmembers’ salaries is not just a symptom of greed, but more prominently, one of a mismanaged budget.
While the current individual pay of councilmembers is clearly troubling, the Pew report also showed that the D.C. Council has a larger per capita representation than any other city examined. The District has only 3,029 residents per councilmember and other associated employees, meaning that the sheer amount of salaries being dispensed to the D.C. Council vastly exceeds all peer cities.
Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), the same councilmember leading opposition to Georgetown’s Campus Plan, has strenuously defended the profligate salary spending and over-hiring of the council. The councilmembers seem to be quite comfortable spending portions of the money students and their families pay in District taxes — rent, sales, et cetera. — on their own inflated salaries. Yet letting Georgetown spend its students’ money for the reason it was paid in the first place — bettering the collegiate experience — is apparently out of the question.
Washington, D.C., has had enough mismanagement, overpayment and political featherbedding. It is a sad day when the same people who are responsible for the shameful state of public finances enrich themselves and their friends without considering the interests of taxpayers.
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