Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


The Frugal Three: Wisconsin Legislators Reject Annual Pay Increase

Bookmark and Share

In a year that has seen rising unemployment, a volatile stock market, and increasing state and federal budget deficits, the backlash on talk radio and in print against legislators in D.C. and at state capitols for receiving pay raises has been pronounced. The idea that the nation’s legislators who are presiding over failed policies should be rewarded with a pay raise is a difficult pill for many Americans to swallow.

While the pay raises amount to only the smallest fraction of governmental expenditures, some legislators have taken this opportunity to reject their raise, and return that portion back to the government.

In Wisconsin, three of the state’s 132 members of the Assembly and Senate have done so thus far: Democratic Representative Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc (Assembly District 25), Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee (Senate District 27), and Republican Dan Kapanke of La Crosse (Senate District 32).

Wisconsin, like its neighbor to the West, faces a two-year budget deficit in excess of 5 billion dollars, and its legislators received a pay raise of 5.3 percent to put their annual salary just $57 shy of $50,000 per year – the ninth highest in the nation.

Are the actions of these three legislators meant to raise a serious policy point about governmental accountability, or are they making a shrewd political move (or both)?

Smart Politics cannot assign motive to the Frugal 3, but we can look at the competitiveness of these legislators’ seats, and determine whether this gesture may be of some political use to them the next time they are up for reelection.

Rep. Ziegelbauer has been elected to the Assembly nine times dating back to 1992, but has faced Republican challengers only two times during that span – in 1992, when he won Democrat Vernon W. Hoschbach’s open seat by 22.4 points, and in 2006 when he defeated Paul Tittl by 12.4 points. Ziegelbauer ran unopposed in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2008. In 1998 he defeated a candidate from the U.S. Taxpayers party by 93.6 points. In short, Ziegelbauer represents a safe Democratic district.

Three-term Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach first won election to the 27th Senate District in 1998 by 13.2 points, filling the open seat left by Democrat Joseph S. Wineke. Since then Erpenbach has not faced a challenger in his reelection victories in 2002 and 2006. His seat would appear to be extremely safe, should he run for a fourth term in 2010.

Republican Senator Dan Kapanke, however, has been involved in three extremely tight Senate races in the 32nd District. In 2000, Kapanke lost by just 2.1 points to Democrat Mark Meyer. In 2004, Kapanke won an open seat race by 5.1 points against Democrat Brad Pfaff, and then won an even narrower 2.9-point victory in 2008 against Democrat Tara Johnson. The counties (or portions thereof) that comprise the bulk of the 32nd District voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2008: La Crosse County (60.9 percent), Crawford County (62.5 percent), Vernon County (60.1 percent), and Monroe County (53.2 percent). Kapanke's decline of the pay increase may thus gain him some favor with political independents - a key component of his constituency for the reelection of a Republican in a bluish district.

Previous post: How to Save Minnesota's U.S. House Seat: More Teenage Mothers?
Next post: Coleman Popularity Virtually Unchanged Since Election Day, Despite Recent Poll Headline

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

Political Crumbs

Haugh to Reach New Heights

The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting