A GOP state representative in Montana who asked to receive his salary in gold and silver coins has been rebuffed by the state’s Office of Legislative Services. Rep. Jerry O’Neil, who hails from the small town of Columbia Falls in the northwest corner of the state, sent a letter earlier this month requesting that his salary from here on in be paid in coins.
Given the state of the U.S. economy and the massive national debt, O’Neil reportedly worried that America’s paper currency could be on the brink of collapse. “Only so many dollars can be printed before they have no value,” he explained to the local Daily Inter Lake newspaper. According to USA Today, O’Neil is a longtime supporter of Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman and perennial presidential candidate who advocates a return to the gold standard.
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However, it was O’Neil’s constituents who led him to consider requesting his salary in coins. O’Neil has never before raised the subject of how he should be paid during his six terms as state representative for Montana’s Flathead Valley. “My constituents, when I went door to door, one of the things they were interested in was the $17 trillion national debt,” he explained to the Huffington Post. “Some of my constituents said we would not have this problem if we had currency backed by gold.”
Making his case to the Daily Inter Lake, O’Neil cited Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constution, which says, in part, that “No State shall… make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”
“How can we in the Montana Legislature protect our constituents?” O’Neil asked in his letter to the Office of Legislative Services.
“The only answer I can come up with is to honor my oath to the U.S. Constitution and request that your debt to me be paid in gold and silver coins that will still have value when the U.S. dollar is reduced to junk status.”
Montana state legislators are paid $10.33 per hour while the legislature is in session; O’Neil estimated his salary to be about $1,800 a month, close to the market value of one 2012 American Eagle One Ounce Gold Proof Coin, according to Politico.
Sheryl Olson, the deputy director of the Montana Department of Administration, told the Huffington Post that state employees are paid either by a state warrant of payment (basically, a check) or via direct deposit. To her knowledge, O’Neil is the only government worker to have requested payment in gold coin, she said.
O’Neil has decided not to follow through on this advice and is looking into other options.