September 21, 2016
A Constitutional Amendment, which few have heard about, will be appearing on the statewide ballot. The initial reaction of voters is likely to be supportive, but the language is deceptive.
Neither option is particularly pro-liberty, however, we believe what is being proposed is worse. People of all political persuasions may agree with our stance: liberals who disagree with diminishing the power of voters, constitutional conservatives who see that “separation of powers” is threatened, and libertarians who dislike creating a new state body and expanding the power of the governor.
To educate the public, the LPMN leadership has taken a stance and issued this statement:
We, the LPMN Executive Committee, by a vote of 8-0, adopt the following position: The Libertarian Party of Minnesota encourages voters to oppose the Constitutional Amendment proposal which would transfer decisions on state legislators’ pay to a new unelected commission.
● Proposal not necessary; ability to set own pay has not been abused
● Proposal uses misleading wording
● Proposal would concentrate more power to the governor
● Proposal would create unelected body unaccountable to the public
● Proposal would take power away from individual voters
Justification and Conclusion
On November 8, Minnesotans will see the following question on their ballots: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove state lawmakers’ power to set their own salaries, and instead establish an independent, citizens-only council to prescribe salaries of lawmakers?”
On the face, this might seem to be a reasonable idea, removing a “conflict of interest” of legislators voting on their own pay.
However, the proposal does not appear necessary. The legislature has not abused the power to set their own pay. In fact, legislative salaries are quite low at $31,140, so low that some legislators have declined to run for reelection.
More importantly, we note that the proposed new commission would consist of 8 appointees by the governor and 8 appointees by the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court (who in-turn is also an appointee of the governor). The governor already appoints board members to the numerous state agencies and departments. The governor appoints officials to the Metropolitan Council, a powerful unelected body which often issues directives to elected city councils. In addition, the governor appoints judges to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court, in defiance of the constitutional intent that judicial elections be open races among multiple candidates to be decided by voters.
Growing executive authority is of serious concern to us. We believe that allowing the executive branch to determine legislative pay would give the position of governor too much power. The notion that the commission would be “independent” is misleading. It is possible that a governor, through his or her appointees to the new commission, could hold the legislature hostage, threatening to cut their pay unless legislators pass certain laws or programs desired by the governor. A governor could also offer to raise pay in exchange for the same.
We believe that this Amendment moves Minnesota in an anti-liberty direction. Voters must not be fooled by the terms “independent” and “citizens-only” in the proposal’s wording. This proposal takes power from the hands of individual voters–who can now hold their legislators accountable on election day–and shifts it to the governor through his or her unelected appointees.
Therefore, we recommend that Minnesotans vote “No” to this Constitutional Amendment on November 8.
Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty? Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time! Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.
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