DO not count me among those who look down their noses at legislators. Most of them have gainful employment elsewhere.
They are following an American tradition begun centuries ago by men like Benjamin Franklin who left their workbenches, offices and farms to tend to matters of state for a few weeks each year.
West Virginia is blessed with a part-time legislature, although the pay and benefits have risen so in the last few decades that lawmakers are perilously close to losing their amateur status.
Mountain State legislators are paid $20,000 a year with a per diem of $131.
California now pays its lawmakers $113,098 a year plus $162 a day for expenses when they are legislating.
New Hampshire pays its legislators $100 a year with no per diem allowance. They have no incentive to hang around the Capitol in Concord longer than necessary.
Guess which state is not crazy.
In recent years, the West Virginia Legislature has been more like the New Hampshire General Court (its legislature).
Not the last two years.
Having an open election for governor last year followed by a competitive race this year is turning our lawmakers into the California State Assembly.
The big problem is with the budget. The backsliding on reforms aimed at making the benefits for retired state workers affordable is monstrous.
The state has a $10 billion unfunded liability in Other Post-Employment Benefits, which are mainly health insurance for retirees.
This allows state workers to take advantage of retirement at 55. Otherwise they would have to wait until they are eligible for Medicare like the rest of us.
One reform a few years ago held that anyone hired after July 1, 2010, would not get these expensive benefits.
Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature softened that reform this year.
How easy it is to throw other people's money away.
Oh, the politicians say the liability has been cut in half. But this is theoretical. The changes made to health insurance for retirees can and will be undone later. This is a game called re-election.
Voters should consider May 8 exactly what the legislative and gubernatorial priorities are.