Opinion

A pay raise isn’t a budget cut in the real world

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown, whose bio-

graphy on the county’s Web site describes him as “perhaps the youngest county commissioner in Washington state history,” deminstrated once again last week why it’s always preferable to elect a leader who’s actually had a real job and learned how the world works on his own time rather than electing him now and hoping he learns what he's doing later.

In rationalizing the decision to approve a 2 percent pay raise for county employees not represented by a union — a classification that, perhaps not surprisingly, includes the commissioners themselves — the 27-year-old wunderkind not only nearly dislocated his shoulder patting himself on the back for not spending more, but he then tried to pass off his actions as an example of fiscal restraint because the commissioners had actually planned on a pay increase twice as large.

“We realize we need to slow the growth rate of the cost of government,” Brown said. “We’ve cut the previous increases by 50 percent, and this represents a significant savings.”

Got that? A 2 percent increase is actually a “savings” because it’s not as big a pay raise as he wanted to give himself and other county employees.

By that logic, it’s a wonder Brown and North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer, who also voted for the increase, didn’t suggest a 25 percent hike and settle for 5 on the theory that lopping off 80 percent of what you really want — but still winding up with more than you have now — represents an even more substantial cut.

A few more creative budget reductions like that and the county could theoretically slash its expenditures to nothing.

On the bright side, at least Brown isn’t your accountant.

“We need to tighten our belts and live within our means,” he said.

In these challenging times, we all do. But is that how your household is muddling through, by voting itself a pay raise?

Is that what your business does? Raise its prices and demand your customers pay it or go to jail?

Not bloody likely. In the real world, cuts are where you actually wind up with less than you started with, not more.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, characteristically, was the only commissioner to dissent, pushing instead for an across-the-board wage freeze.

And while we’re on the subject of antiquated concepts they’d evidently quit teaching at Berkeley by the time Brown matriculated there a couple of years ago, perhaps it’s also time for a refresher on capitalism.

Brown argues it’s essential that the sheriff, for example, get a pay raise to ensure the county has a top-notch sheriff.

“I want to know that the people we have are the very best,” Brown said. “If I have a loved one who is the victim of a crime, I want to know that the sheriff arrives quickly and does whatever it takes to catch the perpetrator.”

But has anyone thought to ask Kitsap Sheriff County Steve Boyer if he’d actually consider resigning from his $112,000-a-year position if he doesn’t get an extra $2,240 a year? And even if he did, is it inconceivable that someone just as capable of doing the job would step forward and work for that amount — or maybe even less?

Back in the real world again, salaries are based on market forces like supply and demand, not plucked out of thin air by elected officials whose connection to the private sector is only theoretical.

No one responsible on any level for crafting a budget these days has any trouble distinguishing a real cut from the sort of mythical savings Josh Brown not only defends but congratulates himself and Bauer for having approved.

Had he actually availed himself of the privilege of paying taxes for a few years before he started imposing them on others, Brown might just be motivated to find some real areas of the budget to cut rather than expecting credit for the sacrifices he can’t quite bring himself to make.

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