Hairshirt populism: Joe Miklosi’s state pay cut not a solo effort

By | June 26th, 2012

At Colorado state Rep. Joe Miklosi’s kickoff of his campaign for the 6th District Congressional seat in August 2011, he sounded the themes that he has continued to repeat…

“I want to bring the spirit of shared sacrifice to responsibly balance the budget - to Washington, the same way we did here. We’ve cut over $5.2 billion over the last four fiscal years in the Colorado state budget, and we’ve balanced it. It’s the deepest cuts in our state’s 135-year history.  I even lowered my salary 2% to set an example.  We need more of that type of shared sacrifice, where everyone contributes to balancing the budget, not just on the backs of our Medicare recipients.” (Emphasis added.)

We’ll note in passing that a balanced budget is a state constitutional requirement. Mild kudos for following the law.

Miklosi’s speech makes it sound as though there were a stand-alone bill, or even a specific amendment, to cut legislators’ salaries. In fact, Joe Miklosi’s salary, and that of every other Colorado legislator, remains just where it has been: $30,000.  His vote to reduce his salary by 2% was part of an overall bill - passed into law - to transfer 2.5 percentage points of PERA contribution from the state to its employees for fiscal year 2011-2012 (SB11-076).  While technically this reduced Miklosi’s take-home pay by roughly 2% after taxes, that little bit of context is missing from Miklosi’s comments about “setting an example.”

Since PERA affects all government employees, including legislators, it would have taken a special exemption to avoid having their PERA contributions increased, as well.

This is pretty much how Miklosi always presents this factoid in his press releases, interviews, and publicity: as an act of hairshirt populism divorced from its context:

  • PR Newswire: ”As a member of the state legislature, Representative Miklosi has cut his own salary.”
  • Westword interview: ”I’ve balanced the budget every year in the state House of Representatives, I’ve cut my salary to show good faith.”
  • Self-Authored Daily Kos Blog: ”I voted to cut my pay…”

None of which explains why, in 2010, when the overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House voted for a similar measure that went on to become law (SB10-146), Miklosi was one of only six House members to vote against. Was he against the spirit of shared sacrifice before he was for it?