The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 10, 2013

Pay increases urged for top state officials

ST. PAUL — Recommendations slated for action today call for the first salary hikes for Minnesota’s governor and legislators since the late 1990s, as well as a substantial restructuring of how top state agency managers are paid.

The Compensation Council, a panel with appointees representing all three branches of state government, delivered a draft plan last week to top lawmakers. In it, the 16-member board says stagnant salaries are making it hard to recruit and retain good people who can make more outside government.

If adopted, the governor’s $120,303-a-year base pay would go up 3 percent in 2015 and again in 2016. It’s unchanged since 1998.

Legislators would see an even bigger bump because their pay would be set at one-third of what the governor makes. That would take their $31,140-a-year salaries to $40,890 in 2015. Their last raise was in 1999.

The proposal could still change before this evening’s vote by the council, and no pay hikes would occur unless the Legislature and governor ratify any or all recommendations. Proposed pay hikes often get hung up because lawmakers worry it will seem like they are taking care of themselves with public money. The state constitution dictates that no legislative pay increase can take effect until after the following House election, which in this case is 2014.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press on Sunday, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he would support the council’s recommendations, noting he would donate any gubernatorial salary increase to charity. However, Dayton said he would support an even larger increase for lawmakers, saying they should make $56,954 — the same as the average household in Minnesota.

“They work very hard, drive long distances, and respond to their constituents around the clock,” he said. “Good legislators are a great bargain.”

Dayton also supports raises for employees in the executive and judicial branches, saying he has lost out on outstanding employees because they could get substantially higher salaries elsewhere.

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