Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission Proposes 40 Percent Pay Hike For Governor And 35 Percent Pay Hike For Lieutenant Governor

Apparently taking advantage of Alaskans' preoccupation with the write-in count in the U.S. Senate race, the Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission (SOCC) has released a proposal to grant what can be termed "windfall" pay raises for the Governor and the Lt. Governor. Only KTUU Channel 2, the Anchorage Daily News, and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner have published brief reports on it so far, offering little detail and no analysis.

-- Read the Commission's full 20-page recommendation HERE.

Specifically, the Commission recommends raising the Governor's salary by 40 percent from $125,000 per year to $175,000 per year, and the Lt. Governor's salary by 35 percent from $100,000 per year to $135,000 per year. The Commission contends that both positions are comparatively underpaid. During calendar year 2009, there were 325 state employees with annual salaries higher than that of the governor, and 1174 state employees with salaries higher than that of the lieutenant governor. These include the $135,000 salaries paid to the state commissioners, who report directly to the Governor.

The Commission further states that with salaries of $175,000 and $135,000 respectively, Alaska's Governor and Lt. Governor would rank among the top 10 to 15 percent of their peers in the United States. Seven other states currently pay their governors approximately $175,000 or more.

This is the second time in two years that the Commission has pushed a pay hike for the Governor and Lt. Governor. In December 2008, the Commission proposed a 20 percent pay hike for the Governor from $125,000 to $150,000, and a 35 percent pay hike for the Lt. Governor from $100,000 to $135,000. Sensitive to the public will, then-Governor Sarah Palin turned down the raise even though her own personal legal expenses were mounting as a result of the ethics jihad being waged against her by Andree McLeod and others. Then-Lt. Gov. Parnell also turned down the raise. The remainder of the package, for Commissioners and legislators, became effective when the legislature failed to vote to stop it; this was a clever ploy by lawmakers so they could claim they "did not vote" for their pay raise.

While the Governor should be earning a higher salary than the Commissioners who report to him, a 40 percent raise seems quite extreme, considering the number of people who are still unemployed and the fact that Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has taken some criticism for proposing a five percent pay hike for 162 city executives in the face of possible layoffs for some city workers. But at least Sullivan offered stronger justification for the executive pay raises; he pointed out that, unlike other city workers, the executives had given up overtime pay, had been working up to 60-hour workweeks at times, and had taken measures to increase the efficiency of their departments. By comparison, the Commission's justification for its pay raise proposals is weak. They fail to consider the possibility that maybe some of those 325 state employees with higher salaries might well be overpaid

The bottom line: Both the Governor and Lt. Governor deserve pay raises, but they should be scaled back. Raise the Governor to $150,000 per year, and the Lt. Governor to $110,000 per year. The Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission solicits public input on this issue; public hearings are scheduled for December 7th, 2010 and January 7th, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, 716 W. 4th Avenue, Suite 220.

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