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Rational thought underlies conservative Christian views on climate change and the environment
by Dr. David R. Legates
Although he has rarely been willing to discuss or debate energy or environmental issues with those who do not share his views, environmentalist David Suzuki frequently challenges them on other grounds. In his recent article, “Religious Right is wrong about climate change,” Suzuki claims that some US and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are “anti-science”.
Suzuki asserts that some climate scientists – including me, by name – put “misguided beliefs above rational thought.” His implicit assumption is that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science, and that I have replaced Almighty God with the “almighty dollar,” believing the economy matters more than the environment.
As a co-author of the Cornwall Alliance’s Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science and Economics of Global Warming, which forms the basis for the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that Suzuki criticizes, I know the Cornwall Alliance fully and carefully integrates scientific, economic, ethical and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There’s nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.
However, Suzuki is correct regarding one aspect of my belief: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing – and improving and safeguarding human health and welfare requires maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.
When a country is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for life, it cannot possibly be concerned with environmental issues. The poor people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River – and then draw their drinking and “cleaning” water from it. So poor that they’re desperate simply for survival, they cannot possibly concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when economic improvements allow technological advancements to increase the quality of life, provide ample food and clothing, house citizens, provide clean drinking water, and treat and eradicate diseases can a thus wealthier society turn its attention to caring for the environment.
That is precisely what has happened in more developed nations. As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. In turn, this has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship.
We emit far less pollution and waste today, both per person and per unit of production, than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, we get more energy from every drop of oil, we are more efficient at everything we do, and we are much better stewards of our environment. But none of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.
Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be “environmentally conscious,” by giving them handouts – food and monetary aid – to keep them alive and perhaps have little solar panels on their huts. But they also ensure that those poor families never prosper or become middle class – so as to perpetuate environmentalist notions of “noble natives,” supposedly “at one” with their environment and living a “sustainable” existence.
Equally harmful, much of that money is lost to corruption, while the people are forced to continue living in a state of poverty, disease, malnutrition and deprivation, as technologies that could enhance their length and quality of life are denied to them. Among the technologies denied are modern seeds, fertilizers, and high-tech, high-yield farming methods to increase food supplies; natural gas and electricity to heat homes and cook food, instead of cutting down forests and burning wood, thereby degrading indoor air quality and causing lethal lung infections; refrigeration so that people do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry; and the use of insecticides, including the powerful insect repellant DDT, to spare them from the agonizing illness and death brought on by malaria.
Each of these enhancements requires plentiful, dependable, affordable energy. Yet in the name of “saving the planet” or “preventing cataclysmic climate change,” environmentalists like Suzuki deny developing countries the modern technologies and energy they need to improve their lives and environment – thereby perpetuating high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and greatly decreased quality of life.
Climate alarmism is the rationale for these deadly policies – and that is where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism. Overstated or non-existent threats to the environment, along with impractical or imaginary ways to prevent the purported threats, are the new scripture on which the adherents develop their theologies and policies for directing and micromanaging the course of human events. Unfortunately, these eco-religionists never encounter (or intentionally avert their eyes from) the misery and devastation that their policies dramatically inflict on the world’s poorest people. That is because they are too concerned with “saving the planet.”
Back in North America, some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care – in short, everything – more expensive and scarce, create more unemployed workers, push many people back into conditions of poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet, as they hope, because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave one of his servants a single talent, and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. Often we think of the talent only as money or ability, but it really stands for every resource – including natural resources. How will the Master of all creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth, and then on Judgment Day say, “Behold, you have what is yours”?
If we do not use the resources God has set before us in the earth to care for those in need, our Creator will likely condemn us, saying: “You kept buried what I gave you, instead of using and investing it. You failed to employ my gifts to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those who were dying from disease. You have been worthless, irresponsible stewards of my creation.” We would deserve the same fate as the servant the master called “wicked and lazy.”
I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.
_________
David R. Legates is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA. He is a Christian and a senior fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is a member of CRI’s Advisory Council.

Today’s News Journal featured a Delaware Voice piece from Reps. Michael Mulrooney and Edward Osiensky explaining why they favor Delaware’s prevailing wage law and oppose right to work legislation. Economic Policy & Analysis Director Omar Borla will provide more detail about the economic impact of having a prevailing wage law and not having right to work, but here are our main arguments against this article (bold emphasis ours):

1. “Republicans stated in a letter to the governor and accompanying press release that they believe that right-to-work laws and “meaningful changes” to our prevailing wage laws would help grow our economy. They tell us the prevailing wage drives up the cost of state construction projects and point to outlier figures to stoke the flames.”

CRI: Prevailing wage means the government tells contractors what they have to pay their workers in order to get a government contract for construction, repair, or general maintenance. Have you seen our prevailing wage? $69.27/hour to be a cement finisher in NCC? $71.17 to be a pile driver? The average American household earns between $25-26 an hour (assuming a 40 hour workweek). Surely these working men and women could take just a small cut, save taxpayers some money, and still earn a decent living?

2. “Prevailing wage laws set pay rates and benefits for workers on state-funded projects. The prevailing wage rate is determined by surveys sent to contractors in all trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians, to collect information on wages and benefits being paid in each county to tradesman working on all types of construction projects, private and public. This establishes the true, current construction market rates for the area.”

CRI:  Partially true, but not the full story. Delaware’s prevailing wage survey oversamples union-friendly contractors.This results in a higher prevailing wage than ought to be the norm.

3. “Opponents take a simplistic view that equates higher wages with higher overall costs. Wages and benefits are only about one-third of overall construction costs – and that percentage has been falling. Prevailing wage requirements help ensure that competition among contractors in the bidding process is focused on areas of overall cost efficiency, high productivity, and innovative methods. The most qualified and responsible contractors will find other cost-saving measures before cutting wages and benefits, which is exactly what the state wants from its public contractors – efficiency and productivity that doesn’t come at the expense of hardworking Delawareans.”

CRI: We have a gross receipts tax, a corporate income tax, personal income tax, high electric rates, and the heavy hand of regulation from the government. Let’s start by ending the gross receipts tax on all revenue generated, and making our other taxes and expenses more competitive with the other leading states (such as Texas, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia) to remove unnecessary burdens from the private sector. Delaware’s prevailing wage requirements have little to do with ensuring workers get a fair wage for their services, and more to reward loyal union members with high wages if they continue to back the elected officials who support the prevailing wage. Of course, this assumes the workers are able to get work in the first place. Remember what happened with the Rockwood Museum? No work ended up being done and no workers got paid.

4. “While there is always room for improvement, fundamental changes or the elimination of the prevailing wage for state projects will not result in savings for the state; it will result in shrunken wages for taxpaying citizens. Contractors will simply pay workers less and increase their profit margins.”

CRI: More likely, there will be more work for workers because it won’t be so expensive to pay them. This is a basic principle of the free markets: the more something costs, the less it will be bought or used. The less it costs, the more it will be bought or used. For example, would you be more likely to buy a book at $5 or $30? Assume it was the same book and there were no differences between the two. Read our analysis here and here and here.Better yet, visit our website and search for all our articles on prevailing wage.

5. “Similarly, the Republicans’ other proposal, right to work, is another partisan talking point masquerading as a jobs plan. Its purpose is to serve the interests of big business by diminishing the rights of workers, not supporting them. “Several states have adopted “right-to-work” laws of some form over the years, which means we can compare prosperity in states where organized labor is free to represent workers and states where workers’ rights to organize are curtailed. A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan agency of Congress, showed there is no conclusive evidence proving “right-to-work” laws spur job growth or reduce unemployment. “The CRS did find hard evidence that shows average wages are $7,000 lower per person in “right-to-work” states than in states that respect the role of unions. That is a huge hit for families when every dollar counts. That is part of why Democrats often line up against such “right-to-work” proposals.”

CRI: Most Delawareans support Right to Work. Contrary to misinformation, right to work doesn’t ban unions; it simply says one does not have to be a union member to get a job in an area where unions have representation. And as for the ‘scab’ argument, unions are under no obligation to represent non-union members unless they declare they are “exclusive bargaining representatives”, which requires all employees in that shop to accept union representation. So said the Supreme Court. As for Delaware’s economy, we have not regained the manufacturing jobs lost from the Great Recession. A lot of this is simple: If you were a business owner thinking of someplace to build a manufacturing plant, what makes Delaware more competitive than another state or country?

Our solution: If the prevailing wage law will not be repealed entirely, eliminate Delaware’s PW survey and just use the one the US Dept. of Labor uses. This is a more fair and accurate survey of market wages. This move will keep a PW law in Delaware AND save the taxpayers money.  

Division of Energy and Climate in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

If you missed this story, Delaware has a new “climate action plan” based on dubious data which assumes more state control of private land use will somehow save us from “man-caused climate change”. Below is our response.

For the most part, the state’s new climate plan could have been titled “Let’s Plan for the Storm of the Century”, a basically sound idea. Unfortunately, the plan also promotes a continuing un-Constitutional effort of the state to take over land use planning from the counties and municipalities. It also promotes the concept there will be catastrophic impacts from global warming which some key state leaders follow with religious like fervor. The facts show no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years, and point to modest impacts on our environment from global warming.

Recent lawsuits have upheld local control of land use issues, as delegated by the Delaware Constitution, by over turning state attempts to write land use regulations. The state Strategic Planning Office must approve local land use plans as it relates to state funded infrastructure such as highways. Some key goals of the climate plan are directed at influencing land use planning. The office is adding a request local land use plans consider climate change, and will enforce it by weighing infrastructure investment in favor of localities that include climate considerations that conform to the state plan.

Additionally, DNREC will specifically use their excessive estimates of global warming induced sea level rise estimates and increased rainfall estimates to push for more control over storm water management (an issue already involved in a lawsuit), shoreline management, beach replenishment, and expanded tidal wetlands maps. DELDOT will use the presumption of more temperature influenced high ozone days to consider driving restrictions during air quality events. DEDO will encourage real estate agents to spread out weekly beach rentals to different start dates, an idea which has some merit but will be disruptive to the tourist industry. It should be noted all of these efforts will likely lead to higher cost for private industry.

The climate plan forecasts sea level rise from greenhouse gas induced global warming at 1.5 to 5 feet by 2100, and used three feet to develop Flood Risk Adaptation Maps which will be used for state planning purposes. Meanwhile, the report also quotes the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration estimates of only 1.1 feet of sea level rise by 2100, including about half that amount from localized land subsidence at the Lewes Tide Gauge, an amount roughly equal to sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. Most of the state is not subsiding, and land height actually increases for estuaries from deposition of sediments from upstream erosion. A realistic expectation is about six inches of sea level rise by 2100.

The plan also assumes rainfall will increase during major storms because of global warming. Even the UN climate change report admits no linkage has been confirmed between global warming and storm intensity.

The state wants to abandon the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency hundred year Flood Insurance Rate Maps which look at historic trends and current flood plain data. The complaint is these maps don’t forecast future trends. We submit the FEMA maps are updated frequently enough to be used for infrastructure planning over the likely lifespan of most infrastructure projects. The use of DNREC’s Flood Risk Adaptation Maps uses questionable forecasts and will result in un-needed additional expense for both the state and private interests. The expanded wetland maps will take a large amount of private land without compensation.

Climate change estimates will be used to force a review of electric rates by the Public Service Commission which could lead to higher rates. The Department of Health & Human Services wants to increase low-income fuel assistance even though higher average temperatures would have a net impact of lowering utility bills as much more money is spent on heating then on cooling. Every state agency has an action step in the plan to increase education of the reality and impacts of catastrophic climate change, an effort some would call propaganda.

Finally, the state has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30% by 2030 from a 2008 base year. The plan admits carbon dioxide emissions were already reduce by 25% by 2010 and so is looking for an additional 5% reduction from new initiatives by 2030. Appendix C of the plan provides the key assumptions used in developing emission forecasts. The plan used the U.S. Energy Information Agency 2009 forecast which assumed carbon dioxide emissions would increase 0.7% a year to 2030. The more recent EIA 2014 forecast assumes emissions will decrease by 0.2% a year. Based on the more recent forecast, the 30% reduction target will be met without any new initiatives needed.

The legislature, and all Delaware citizens, should question any legislation, budget, or regulatory changes driven by the “Climate Framework for Delaware”.

Dave T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

Caesar Rodney Institute

                                              

CRI has joined a Freedom of Information Act request for disclosure of sources of grants given to University of Delaware Professor John Byrne for his work on climate change. Those paying attention to these issues will notice that our request merely followed in the footsteps of a request for similar information regarding UD’s Dr. David Legates. We replicated US Representative Raul Grijalva’s language nearly verbatim, hoping to place his move in perspective. As Delaware citizens we proceeded under a transparency law providing for the release of public records; to those who would claim such requests chill academic freedom, we note that it is Rep. Grijalva whose request waves the banner of governmental authority.

Rep. Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is targeting only those who have testified, using their research, against claims that global warming is causing harms such as an increase in severe weather events. He states it is important we know who funded the research in case some fossil fuel company supported the funding to influence the results. He has not made similar requests of anyone who testified using research that supports the connection. Apparently, grants from environmental groups, government, and certain foundations are assumed, incorrectly, to be beyond suspicion of influencing research.

Using the power of his office for this sort of one-sided pursuit poses real potential to limit research of controversial topics. For several years we have seen an ongoing campaign aimed at removing inconvenient scientists from the climate change debate. Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder announced in a blog post responding to Grijalva’s letter, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues.” Pielke’s work, similar to Dr. Legates, shows that damages from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and droughts have not increased in frequency or intensity since the middle of the twentieth century despite warmer temperatures. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading proponent of government action to decrease carbon emissions, also states global warming has not been proven to impact severe weather events.

We support transparency at publicly funded institutions, and researchers should disclose funding sources when they publish a paper as is the policy at most universities. However, we have seen numerous requests for “skeptic” scientists’ emails (such as Dr. Legates’ at Delaware) draw no university opposition or public challenge, only to hear shrieks of outrage when the roles are reversed. The reach of transparency laws is a topic of legitimate debate, though whether they should be evenly applied should be beyond challenge. The use of government office to join one side and intimidate unwanted challenge, however, is climate McCarthyism. We hope our request will contribute to placing the similarities — and stark differences — between these efforts in perspective.

In Defense of Willie Soon

Over the weekend the New York Times did a hit piece on a man named Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist still employed with the  Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, because his superiors haven’t figured out how to completely get rid of him.

Disclosure: Dr. Soon was employed with the Caesar Rodney Institute from November 2012-April 2013. He wrote two articles on climate science and made one appearance with CRI Advisor Dr. David Legates. Their presentation can be viewed here and here. Their PowerPoint is available here.

From the New York Times:

“For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

Stop for a moment. They argue that because “corporations” fund Dr. Soon’s research, he must be doing this only to please his fossil-fuel company corporate masters who “deny” the climate “science” because of their capitalist greed. Yet the same people doing the attacking happily accept money from groups or people like The Ford Foundation, Climate Action Fund, Tom Steyer, 11th Hour Project (founded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt), the United Nations, government agencies invested in proving man-made climate change in order to increase taxes and regulations, other businesses involved in the green energy movement, etc., yet somehow their contributions or motives for proving man-made climate change theories as fact are not questioned in this article.

We knew at the time Dr. Soon joined CRI he had received money in the past from those in the energy sector (we didn’t know how much though) who have an interest in preventing carbon taxes and the like from ruining their businesses. But do you blame them? The radical environmentalist movement has an agenda to destroy “fossil fuels” and anyone who stands opposed to the unnecessary growth of government control over the private sector. Note that he doesn’t get money for his research because the people giving grants cut him off for his disagreement, and he does have two small kids he has to provide for. If he cannot compete fairly for grant money because his work does not fit in with what his employers want (that humans are destroying the planet and only government regulations and carbon taxes can save us), then where else do people expect him to get money for his income?

“Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.”

Naturally we never find out who the “many experts in the field” are because they are not cited. Also we note that those who criticize Dr. Soon’s research do not point out the specifics where he is wrong or where his data is out of date.

“Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.”

CRI has this problem too. We are accused by our detractors of being “right-wing nuts,” yet our work, coming directly from public sources, is not challenged on its merits. Assumptions are made because we don’t support the “general consensus” on issues like Sea Level Rise, Prevailing Wage, and carbon taxes.Personal attacks are used in place of debate.

Now environmental policy is only a minor part of CRI’s platform. To the extent we cover environmental policy we do so in the forms of how it will affect energy policy or civil liberties. Policy Director Dave Stevenson prefers to focus on energy-related issues and keep away from the overall climate-change debate because it isn’t our main focus, with the exception of stopping the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and carbon taxes. We are not suggesting alternative energies are bad or that we as humans don’t cause environmental problems we need to resolve. However, given the nature of the attacks and the source it comes from, we feel this should be addressed from our end. If you believe people like Dr. Soon are wrong, then prove it with your own data and not just broad assumptions about who your opponents are.

As for whether Dr. Soon’s papers meet academic guidelines, we have no dog in that fight and no comment.

We stand by the material which is up on our website and until someone provides credible evidence that Dr. Legates’ and Dr. Soon’s data is incorrect, we will leave it up.

Every once in a while we at CRI like to think about economic freedom issues that don’t directly relate to our mission. One such story which showed up in our chilly, soon-to-be-snow-covered inboxes is this one on DelDOT helping the Newark Police patrol the roads near Exit 1 and the Maryland border (route 896, Christiana Parkway, Route 40) where some truckers have been known to exit the highway and then rejoin I-95 about 2 miles away without paying the toll.

Barring the unusual traffic delay this move adds maybe 10 minutes to one’s commute in exchange for saving $4 in tolls. Clearly a large number of truckers believe adding 10 minutes to their commute is worth saving $4 for. So how does the state respond? by hiring more “enhanced” enforcement of toll evasion by heavy trucks and commercial vehicles along Newark-area routes restricted to local deliveries only. The enforcement will be more infrequent but they will reserve power to pull trucks over and check the drivers’ records to make sure they are on local roads on their way to make a local delivery.

Now from a locals’ point of view, trucks block lanes, wear down roads, and slow down normal traffic flow, all so a trucker can save $4 in toll fees. It should not surprise anyone then that keeping trucks who are not making local deliveries off the roads would be popular in the Newark area where this is occurring. From the article:

“During the first two months of patrols in November and December, state troopers and Newark officers conducted 386 total inspections, according to DelDOT.

Police took at least five trucks and nine drivers out of service due to violations in that time, said DelDOT’s Brian Motyl, assistant director of finance. Overall, they issued 179 citations, including weight, equipment, licensing and registration-related issues. Data for January was not yet available.”

That’s a lot of inspections! Over six a day, holidays included. There were nearly three citations issued a day. Each citation carries a fine ranging from $77-$95 and two points on the driver’s license. DelDOT says it’s spent $60,000 through January 31 on the enhanced enforcement; using the $95 fines for every citation issued, the state took in $17,005. That’s a loss of roughly $43,000 going by the math alone, and that’s if every ticket issued was for the maximum amount. On the other side getting heavy trucks off local roads might save money on construction repairs since heavier truck usage requires more repair work done but given New Castle County’s astronomically high Prevailing Wage rates any savings from fewer repairs would be wiped out by the PW and the cost of enforcing this program long-term.

We can safely conclude using this enforcement is costing the state more money than it takes in from citations or from forcing these “toll dodgers” to pay $4 at the toll booth. The article mentions an uptick in tolls collected from commercial traffic but notes tolls collected from larger vehicles has been down for some time. Now the enforcement campaign could pressure truckers to pay $4 rather than risk a $95 fine and points on the license might scare some truckers into staying on the highway, but now we move into the morality: is this way of enforcing laws an aspect of a free society? Having police do random checks for papers to make sure you comply with the local ordinance? Suppose the state lowered the toll to $2. Might that discourage all but the most toll-evading of truckers to just pay $2 rather than dodge the tolls, a move which would save the state tens of thousands of dollars on road repairs and enforcement?

Let’s hear your thoughts: Do you support this enhanced enforcement program? Or should the state try alternative means to discourage truckers from leaving the highways?

In response to Senator Karen Peterson’s (D-Stanton) letter to the editor in The News Journal on February 12, 2015:
We want to set the record straight. First, We will address Senator Peterson’s first point that our information on legislative salaries is incorrect. The difference is the Senator wants to compare the average legislative salary in 2007 and 2013 separately. This biases the data downward due to the high turnover in the Senate and the even higher turnover in the House. What we did was to view data from all years 2007-2013. The reason the data is different because of the turnover between legislators who left office, whether by election or some other cause. When we give the average pay we mean total pay, including expense stipends and leadership/committee position bonuses. We are not exclusively talking about base pay, which the Senator clearly is.

All of our data comes from the Delaware Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which we received by FOIA request. Using publicly available data Dr. Stapleford viewed legislative salaries from 2007-2013,. but divided legislators into two categories: Those who were members of the General Assembly for the duration of time 2007-2013, and those who were legislators in 2013 but not 2007.

All data below is for the following individuals who were in the State Senate in 2007 and are currently still in the State Senate (other pay is the $7,334 legislators are allowed for expenses, which we have included as part of their pay). Regular pay has factored in leadership bonuses.

Regular Overtime Other Total
Blevins,Patricia M $51,826 $0 $7,334 $59,160
Bonini,Colin R. J. $46,184 $0 $7,334 $53,518
Cloutier,Catherine Ann $51,958 $0 $7,334 $59,292
Ennis,Bruce C $46,487 $0 $7,334 $53,821
Hall-Long,Bethany $42,332 $0 $7,334 $49,666

All data below is from 2013:

Blevins,Patricia M $63,934 $0 $7,334 $71,268
Bonini,Colin R. J. $47,893 $0 $7,334 $55,227
Bushweller,Brian J $55,474 $0 $7,334 $62,809
Cloutier,Catherine Ann $53,667 $0 $7,334 $61,001
Ennis,Bruce C $53,667 $0 $7,334 $61,001
Hall-Long,Bethany $47,893 $0 $7,334 $55,227
Henry,Margaret R $49,841 $0 $9,328 $59,169
Hocker SR,Gerald $47,656 $0 $7,334 $54,990
Lavelle,Gregory F $51,835 $0 $7,334 $59,169
Lawson,David G $53,312 $0 $7,334 $60,646
Lopez,Ernesto Braulio $47,656 $0 $7,334 $54,990
McBride,David B $56,417 $0 $7,334 $63,751
McDowell,Harris B $55,500 $0 $7,334 $62,834
Peterson,Karen E $53,667 $0 $7,334 $61,001
Pettyjohn,Brian Guy $47,656 $0 $7,334 $54,990
Poore,Nicole $48,337 $0 $7,334 $55,671
Simpson,Franklin Gary $56,417 $0 $7,334 $63,751
Sokola,David P $49,701 $0 $7,334 $57,035
Townsend,Bryan Jeffrey Schurgard $47,656 $0 $7,334 $54,990
Venables Sr,Robert L $48,619 $0 $7,334 $55,953

As you can see if you look only at “regular”, or base, pay, Dr. Stapleford’s number is off the mark. But when you include other pay, these numbers increase. Title 29 Chapter 7 of the Delaware Code explains this further in detail.

The second charge by Senator Peterson is over the time legislators spend working. The work commitment for Delaware legislators of 6 months plus a few days comes directly from the Delaware code. (Not to mention that legislators not involved with the Joint Finance Committee are not required to work for this 5 week period) Legislators do attend meetings and events with constituents, lobbyists, and advocacy groups during the year but they are a) not mandated by law to do so and b) do not always do so for 40+ hours a week that most full-time salaried private sector workers are expected to work consistently.

We also want to point out according to the National Conference of State Legislators, Delaware ranks 12th in base salary for legislators. Each state has different session dates and while some states pay more and have fewer open dates than Delaware (Wisconsin, Illinois, Alaska, and Hawaii are also very generous with legislative pay), most states have part-time legislators who have similar responsibilities but get paid much less. We respect the Senator’s opinion on this but we do want to note that the majority of states do not have full-time legislators. Becoming an elected official ought to be a gesture of public service to one’s community, state, and country, not a full-time career path.

The third charge is over how legislative salaries are set. On this issue Senator Peterson is correct and CRI stands corrected on the original passage Dr. Stapleford published:

“To be clear, however, the legislators do not set their own salaries and stipends. This is done by the Delaware Compensation Commission of whom 5 out of 6 members are legislators and 1 member is from the private sector.”

From Title 29 of the Delaware Code, Section 3301:

“There is established a commission known as the “Delaware Compensation Commission,” hereinafter referred to as the “Commission,” consisting of 6 members, 2 of whom shall be appointed by the Governor, 1 by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and 1 by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The fifth member shall be the President of the Delaware Round Table. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget of the State shall serve as an ex officio and nonvoting member of the Commission. The appointees shall be persons not holding any public office nor employed substantially full-time with compensation by this State while serving on this Commission.”

The bottom line is that in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage in Kent County was $40,664 a year and in Sussex the average wage was $37,856, less than the average State Senator’s pay but without the allowance for up to six months of non-work time. Even factoring in New Castle County, the average wage in 2013 $53,820, which is still less than what all of our State Senators made that same year.

*Update: We are including State Representative data as well. We note the average pay for a Representative in 2013 was $55,801, or a little over $3,000 less than state senators. We’ll note that 14 state reps made than than the average wage but all cleared $50,000 once the constitutionally-mandated expense stipend is factored in.

Name base pay overtime other pay total pay
Barbieri,Michael $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Baumbach,Paul S $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Bennett,Andria L $47,834 $0 $7,334 $55,168
Bolden,Stephanie T $47,834 $0 $7,334 $55,168
Brady,Gerald L $48,549 $0 $7,334 $55,883
Carson Jr,William J $53,519 $0 $7,334 $60,853
Dukes,Timothy Dale $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Gray,Ronald E $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Heffernan,Debra J $53,519 $0 $7,334 $60,853
Hudson,Deborah $51,865 $0 $7,334 $59,199
Jaques JR,Earl G $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Johnson,James $53,667 $0 $7,334 $61,001
Johnson,Samuel Q $48,549 $0 $7,334 $55,883
Keeley,Helene M $47,904 $0 $7,334 $55,238
Kenton,Harvey R $53,519 $0 $7,334 $60,853
King,Ruth Briggs $44,189 $0 $7,334 $51,523
Kowalko JR,John A. $44,111 $0 $7,334 $51,445
Longhurst,Valerie J $56,417 $0 $7,334 $63,751
Miro,Joseph E $53,667 $0 $7,334 $61,001
Mitchell,John L $44,189 $0 $7,334 $51,523
Mulrooney,Michael P $47,893 $0 $7,334 $55,227
Osienski,Edward S $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Outten,William R $47,834 $0 $7,334 $55,168
Paradee III,William Charles $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Peterman,Harold J $47,834 $0 $7,334 $55,168
Potter,Charles $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Ramone,Michael J $47,893 $0 $7,334 $55,227
Schwartzkopf,Peter C $63,934 $0 $7,334 $71,268
Short,Bryon H $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Short,Daniel B $56,447 $0 $7,334 $63,781
Smith,Melanie George $55,472 $0 $7,334 $62,806
Smyk,Stephen T $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Spiegelman,Jeffrey N $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Viola,John J $51,865 $0 $7,334 $59,199
Williams,Kimberly A $44,041 $0 $7,334 $51,375
Wilson,David L $47,834 $0 $7,334 $55,168
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