12th try: Miami-Dade County commission crafting pay raise formula
By Risa Polansky
For the 12th time in half a century, Miami-Dade commissioners plan to ask voters for a raise, though they're struggling to settle on a formula that would make the dozenth time the charm.
The expected August ballot question would probably include a salary in the $90,000 range and some form of a term limit without banning outside employment for lawmakers — the only elements commissioners could agree on in committee Tuesday.
Lawmakers since 1961 have repeatedly looked to voters to break the now 53-year local mandate of $6,000 annual salaries.
Total compensation grows considerably when allowances and other benefits are factored in.
But it's base salary commissioners hope to change, arguing that they represent 2.4 million residents and oversee a $7 billion-plus budget, and that more political hopefuls would consider running if they didn't have to go bankrupt or do double-duty at another job to do it.
Despite lengthy debate and four formal proposals, the six commissioners on the dais Tuesday couldn't agree on a salary proposal or how to limit terms in office.
Most said they don't believe in term limits — residents can vote elected officials out of office anytime, they argued — but feel the community is demanding them.
The last failed attempt at a pay raise went down 52% to 48% in 2008 — but that measure didn't include term limits.
Commissioners seem to think that could be the key this time around, though they couldn't agree on a cap.
A Bruno Barreiro proposal called for no more than four consecutive four-year terms.
Carlos Gimenez proposed limiting commissioners' runs to two consecutive terms — the same as the US president, he said.
Barbara Jordan and Audrey Edmonson went for what they called a happy medium — three consecutive four-year terms.
Most commissioners supported setting salaries based on the state statutory formula, now about $92,097.
But Ms. Jordan suggested starting at $75,000, then increasing annually up to the state level based on the consumer price index.
"I wanted to put something on that I felt would be much more palatable to the electorate," she explained.
José "Pepe" Diaz has yet another idea. He's asking for more information on how other county commissions set salaries aside from the state formula, which he said falls short considering Miami-Dade is the largest county in Florida revenue-wise, that some county administrators make far more money, and that commissioners would be agreeing to term limits.
Joe Martinez questioned whether now is even the time to talk of pay raises.
Because the committee couldn't agree, members voted instead to send a framework concept to the full commission to flesh out and vote on.
The committee-sponsored proposal is to include a limit of up to four terms, salary based on the state or another formula and no restriction on outside employment.
The committee vote was close on banning outside jobs, which some feel would infringe on commissioners' rights and others think would help legitimize a significant raise and help eliminate voting conflicts.