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Saturday, May 7, 2011

How about Merit Pay for Florida legislators

From the Orlando Sentinel

by Scott Maxwell

The legislators think merit pay is the way to go, eh?

Well, if it's good enough for teachers, I'm sure they'll welcome similar standards for their own paychecks.

How about paying Florida politicians based on empirical evidence and data as well?

Here are the criteria:

•The economy. It stinks. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's not your fault. It's Obama's. Most everything evil is. Here's the thing: America's unemployment rate is 8.9 percent. Florida's is 11.5 percent. So your state stinks worse than his nation. (And you've been in charge a lot longer.) Your grade: F.

•Ethics. Let's see. The Senate president was just admonished for hiding his finances. There have been closed-door meetings. You rejected bills for tighter ethics laws. And one of you even had the gall to draft legislation that would allow lobbyists to give you more gifts. On the bright side: Unlike past sessions, no one's been indicted! Grade: D.

•Low taxes. Thanks to no income taxes, Florida's tax burden is lower than the national average for residents. And it's even better for corporations. The vast majority of Florida businesses pay no corporate income tax at all. Grade: A.

•Fair taxes. In recent years, lawmakers have jacked up costs for things such as drivers licenses. (They think if they call it a "fee" you won't notice.) Yet they have so many loopholes for corporations and special interests, massive companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines end up paying total tax rates of as little as 1 percent. Hmm. Do you pay 1 percent? Grade: F.

•Housing. Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in America and the highest inventory of homes in distress. Grade: F.

By this point, some our more petulant legislators are whining: That's not fair! There are factors beyond our control!

I know. But teachers aren't totally responsible for the test scores of kids with learning disabilities or cruddy parents. But it'll still affect their salaries.

Or perhaps they're whining: That's not fair! Politicians already have a merit-based system. If voters don't like what we're doing, they don't re-elect us.


Legislators serve in a rigged system. They gerrymander the districts and change the rules to give themselves unlimited amounts of special-interest cash. The last time they drew themselves new districts, they rigged things so well that not a single incumbent lost in 2004 … in the entire state.

Now, back to our grading. This time, we look at categories similar to the ones our students face.

•Civics. Legislators have shown disdain and disregard for bedrock principles of our country and Constitution. They're using your money to try to overturn your vote — paying lawyers $300 an hour to fight Fair Districts. And they seem to have little regard for our Founding Fathers' belief in separate branches of government as they launch repeated attacks on the judiciary. Grade: F.

•Vocabulary. One word: "uterus." Grade: F.

•Organization. Our legislative leaders are very efficient at moving things along without wasting time on endless floor debates … or considering of differing viewpoints. Grade: B.

•Basic reading skills. Some legislators have eagle eyes. Others seem unable to explain their own bills. I don't want to embarrass anyone specifically. But if you claim you didn't know your bill would help only one company (Chris Dorworth for Darden) or would violate the U.S. Constitution (Jason Brodeur trying to imprison pediatricians for asking questions) you're either lying or you're a dolt. Grade: C.

Obviously, not all legislators deserve the same grades. There are actually some good ones. It's the 80 percent of rotten ones that give the other 20 percent a bad reputation.

But because this is a general merit-pay assessment for the average lawmakers, let's add it all up.

Let's see, that's a whole bunch of F's added together … carry the one … multiplied by their annual salary ($30,000 for working a few months out of the year) …

My formula shows each lawmaker owes us $18.61.

You can give my share to the teachers. or 407-420-6141,0,3362862.column

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