Niagara Gazette

January 3, 2013

EDITORIAL: Lawmakers: This is no time for raises

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Millions of working Americans will open their paychecks this week and find less of what they need most: Money.

Although federal lawmakers were able to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," Congress allowed the Social Security payroll tax to increase for roughly three-quarters of American workers, meaning they will notice an increase in the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent starting today.

A couple of percentage points doesn't seem like much, but in a weak economy where the price of everyday goods like food and gasoline seem to eat up every spare dollar, a few bucks per week adds up to hundreds of dollars per year and makes a big difference.

Most Americans will adjust, as they always have. Many have said they can accept higher taxes for the greater good, especially when that good involves Social Security.

The question here isn't them. 

The question here relates to Congress, state lawmakers in New York and all elected leaders across the country.

Are they capable of doing what's necessary? Can they sacrifice their needs for the greater good?

Unfortunately, we still wonder. 

While average, working-class people are making do with less time and again, they're not seeing the same level of commitment on their behalf in the hallowed halls of government in places like Washington, D.C. and Albany.

And now in the state's capital there continue to be whispers about a possible pay hike for lawmakers.

This can't happen. 

Not now. Under current circumstances, it is, in a word, unacceptable.

Beyond the dollar-here, dollar-there decreases in pay most Americans will begin noticing today, there are all those New Yorkers downstate still trying to figure out how to rebuild from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.

New York State has a huge added expense as it heads into 2013 and federal lawmakers are now haggling over a $60 billion — that's billion with a b — aid package for Sandy victims here and in neighboring states.

To take time this year to add to their own salaries — a very livable $79,500 per year — would be an unconscionable act of greed on the part of members of the state legislature.

It's time for state lawmakers to come to terms with a simple private-sector concept: There are no raises until the company is prosperous again.

New York is not prosperous, not by a long shot. 

And to our Albany representatives from Niagara County — state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and state assemblymen John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, and Robin Schimminger, D-Tonawanda, among them — understand this: It's not good enough to say you'll vote against raises for yourselves and your colleagues this year. 

Your constituents expect you to be out in front, leading the charge and waging battle against higher lawmaker wages.

Voting 'no' now only to cash larger checks later isn't good enough. 

It's akin to standing by while a robbery occurs. 

Should the rumored pay raises for state lawmakers come to pass, we'll call upon you to return the added salary if possible, or bring it back to your districts in the form of straight, cash donations to area community groups or other worthwhile charities.

Rest assured, we will not sit silent and let you collect more money when so many of your constituents earn less and pay more.

The economy is ailing, the state is still dealing with the effects of a devastating storm and there's a great deal of uncertainty in households across America.

Now is not the time for personal greed and pay raises. 

As working class people across America fully understand, now is a time of sacrifice when focus needs to be placed on the greater good.