The median household income in Mississippi is about $35,000. We’re the lowest in the nation. Thankfully, our cost of living is less than in many states, but, as a whole, we have modest incomes and limited wealth. Making six figures in Mississippi makes you rich.
The top public office in our state is that of governor. I was surprised to find that Gov. Phil Bryant’s salary is $122,160 per year. Wow! That’s a lot of money in Mississippi, but it’s not a lot of money for that position. Sure, he gets a house and all that goes with it, but this is the governor we’re talking about. As a hard-working taxpayer, I was not offended by that number.
I was even more surprised to find that Gov. Bryant came into office slashing his own staff and their salaries. In fact, Bryant is spending 10 percent less on salaries than the former occupant. Another wow! This guy seems to be taking cost-cutting seriously. Everybody else only seems interested in cutting OTHER people’s budgets.
Any organization that depends on the contributions/taxes of its members or citizens should consider the income and plight of those members. That begins with our public offices. Governors’ and mayors’ salaries should be based on the median incomes of their citizens. If citizens are hurting because of a recession and losing ground due to lost jobs and lack of raises, public officials should follow suit. Most of the time, though, they just keep awarding themselves raises, regardless of conditions for their constituents.
This goes for other organizations, as well. We shouldn’t give the preacher a fat raise when his members haven’t seen an extra cent in a few years. We shouldn’t award big salaries to directors of chambers of commerce when their member businesses are closing the doors. And we shouldn’t give the director of that charity a big bonus when the contributors are being pinched. It’s not right.
I believe in paying people well for jobs well done, but I also believe in starting that conversation by looking at the budget of the organization and the economic situation of contributors. Automatic raises are not a given, especially in these tough times, and CEOs who lower their salaries and those of their staff in response to tough times are being fiscally responsible.
So, thanks, Gov. Bryant. Thanks for watching out for our tax dollars, and thanks for considering the tough times the folks in Mississippi are going through. Besides, I think you really CAN make it on that $122,000 with a little budgeting of your own.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her website is www.newper.com.