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Is State’s Pay System Fair To Teachers, Other Workers?

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 1995

In today’s political climate, the Washington state Legislature never would have raised its own salary by 9.2 percent over the next two years.

Never.

But a citizens commission, created to take that decision out of lawmakers’ hands, has done just that. Barring a successful referendum to cancel the hike, pay for the supposedly part-time jobs will go up $100 a month in September and another $100 a month in September 1996.

Before you grab the phone to voice your reaction, consider the history.

State voters approved the Salary Commission in 1986 after the Legislature had put it on the ballot as House Joint Resolution 49. Before that, lawmakers’ pay went up only if they had the courage to vote for a raise themselves.

Marketed as a way to prevent legislators from abusing their power, HJR49 was a heaven-sent solution to lawmakers’ political quandary. A non-elected commission wouldn’t have to answer to voters and could be trusted to keep pay in step with inflation and duties.

Now, if voters scream about legislative pay hikes, senators and representatives can just shrug their unburdened shoulders.

But the system enrages state employees and public school-teachers whose own pay has been frozen by the Legislature for two years. They’d like a similar deal, but the Legislature will never give it to them.

OK, now it’s time to dial.

Is this situation unfair? If so, how should it be corrected - depoliticize state workers’ salaries, too, or force lawmakers to go back to taking the tough vote?

A couple of rotten apples do the stinking for the whole orchard

On Saturday night, thousands of Spokane area youngsters showcased their talents in the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade.

Later, in Riverfront Park, police had their hands full dealing with a rash of fights and assaults. Most, they said, involved gangs and gang “wannabes.”

The report is discouraging but not surprising. Law enforcement agencies across the land say violent crime is declining - except among teenagers.

Homicides committed by 14- to 17-year-old boys jumped 165 percent from 1985 to 1993, the FBI reports.

Without forgetting to stroke the majority of youths who behave themselves, how should society combat this menace?

The box below explains how to respond. Comments will be shared Thursday.

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