Here's a plea to all government officials: Come up with a better reason to justify high public-sector salaries and benefits.

The Sacramento Bee today reports that California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is boosting staff salary by as much as 22 percent, bringing more than 200 legislative aides above the $100,000 mark.

You can already guess what Nunez's spokesman has to say in defense of the big dollars, right? It's important to pay wages that are competitive in order to retain top talent, blah, blah, blah.

That may well be true, but I would humbly submit that government spokesmen are going to have to craft a new line. A hundred grand still sounds like a lot of money to most people, even in California. Why legislators can't get someone to work for, say, a measly $80k is something many voters will wonder. Particularly at a time of deficits (which is all the time in California).

We all understand that when times are tough in government-budget land, reporters love nothing more than to write stories criticizing public officials for heading off to conventions in nice places. Many county officials shied away from NACo's meeting in Hawaii a couple years back for just this reason.

We're entering an era when government salaries are going to come under increased scrutiny. People will be more reluctant to buy the "have to be competitive" line. They are also growing more skeptical (with reason) about the idea that public employees deserve luxurious benefits because they are paid less than private-sector counterparts.

In these global times, many people's wages are under pressure. Government work, so far, is mainly not outsourced. Therefore, government workers are more secure and so generate some jealousy. We've already seen plenty of stories questioning why government workers still get generous guaranteed pensions when most people are lucky to get a percent or two match into their self-funded 401(k)s.

So the heat will continue to be on public officials to justify big paydays and generous benefits. It's time to come up with some fresh material to do so.