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Commission pay raises

Southern Nevada governments need leadership and sacrifice from their elected stewards, especially in fiscal matters. The valley’s economy is vulnerable, families are hurting, businesses are struggling and the public sector, across the board, still has more money going out than coming in.

So it was especially galling to see Clark County commissioners raid the treasury Tuesday and vote themselves 10 percent pay raises.

Commissioners’ base salaries will rise from $72,488 to $80,008 by January. The vote was 5-2, with Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown saying no. Good for them. They’ve actually noticed that many of their constituents have seen their household incomes decline.

No doubt, the five commissioners who voted to put more money in their pockets at our expense — Tom Collins, Chris Giunchigliani, Mary Beth Scow, Susan Brager and Lawrence Weekly — can rationalize their decisions. Commissioners took a 2 percent pay cut in 2011, and the raise will bring their salaries to where they were in 2010.

But having commissioners restore their salaries without a commensurate increase in tax collections sets a horrible precedent for future contract negotiations with the county’s bargaining groups. Make no mistake, one of the great public policy battles in the decade ahead will be holding the line on government personnel costs. Unions that have seen member salaries steadily grow through the Great Recession are going to demand “catch-up” increases regardless, at rates that dwarf what taxpaying businesses could hope to offer.

If commissioners didn’t think the job paid enough, they shouldn’t have run for office. But they still have a chance to right their wrong. They can give the raise back — all of it.

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