Lower Legislative Pay = Better Government

A new study of state legislative pay and party competition in the American Political Science Review, finds that, in addition to greater party competition, modest pay for legislators leads to a reduction in “regionalism” (i.e. legislation to benefit a lawmakers district, like pork-barrel projects) and a focus on statewide issues:

Along with one-party dominance, higher lawmaker salaries are linked to policies targeted to a particular local interest, the study of 13 states reveals. The effect of more lucrative pay is surprising, Gamm points out, because good government advocates have long argued that professionalizing state legislatures — increasing the length of legislative sessions and providing hefty salaries — would give lawmakers the time and financial freedom needed to focus on broad legislation, bills that often require study and expertise to understand and coalition building to pass.

Why then do larger salaries lead to more narrowly-focused laws instead? “By paying people more and making them really want to keep their job, you are motivating them to respond to voters in the most direct and transparent way possible. That often means district legislation,” explains Kousser.

Is it time for Pennsylvania to move back to a part-time legislature?