December 16, 2010

Governor, other officials should get pay raises, panel says

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

The governor Maryland voters elect next year should get a $5,000 pay raise in 2013 and 2014, bringing the salary up to $160,000, the Governor’s Salary Commission unanimously recommended Tuesday night.

The seven-member commission also recommended similar 3.3 percent and 3.2 percent pay increases for the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller and the state treasurer, bringing their salaries to $133,333 in the final year of the next four-year term.

The commissioners said they had a long discussion of the state’s tough financial situation at their first meeting Friday night.

“The question [was] whether it was really appropriate to go nine years without an increase,” said State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, an ex-officio member of the commission who did not vote on her own salary. “The artificial freezing was a concern.”

The governor’s salary has been $150,000 since 2006, when the General Assembly rejected the recommendation that it be raised $5,000 a year to $170,000 in 2010.

The legislature can accept, reduce or reject the commission’s recommendation, but it can’t cut the salaries below their existing levels.

Four of the seven members of the commission, which includes Kopp, plus three each appointed by the House speaker and the Senate president, also served on the last salary commission.

Kopp initially argued that the governor’s salary be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index, while other commissioners thought it should be higher. “I would personally say make it 160 and 170,” said Howard Pinskey.

But the commission eventually accepted the motion by former state Sen. Robert Neall for the $5,000 increases.

“I think the way we structured it improves its chances” in the legislature, Neall said.

While the state is facing deficits, the commissioners noted that state employees have gotten some pay hikes and some county executives and members of the governor’s own cabinet are already making more than the governor. The Montgomery County executive makes $175,000 and the Prince George’s executive makes $174,539. Six cabinet secretaries earn $166,082 a year, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick makes $195,000 and most state university presidents earn much more.

Ten other state governors already make more than $160,000.

The commissioners did note that the governor also gets free use of the executive mansion, a $100,000 mansion fund for official entertaining, and the use of state SUVs and State Police drivers as part of his security detail. But these are considered the perks of the office, as opposed to personal compensation.

Created by a constitutional amendment in 1976, the commission only officially recommends salaries for the governor and lieutenant governor. But it has become traditional for governors to ask for recommendations on the salaries of the other constitutional officers he sets in the state budget.

The commission Tuesday also recommended that the salary of the Secretary of State, the only cabinet office established by the constitution, be raised from $87,500 to $93,333. Secretary of State John McDonough is currently the second lowest-paid cabinet member, with only Secretary of Veterans Affairs Edward Chow making less at $80,160.