Council recommends pay raises for state officials

10:46 PM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
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Lawmakers take oath on opening day

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Pay hikes for public officials are typically greeted as warmly as a damp day at a bus stop, but on Monday night the Minnesota Compensation Council recommended a series of raises for judges, legislators, agency heads and the governor.

"That's ridiculous. I don't think that needs to happen," said Brianna Allum as she waited for her ride near Rice Park.

Under the plan, Minnesota Supreme Court associate justices would see their annual salaries rise from roughly $146,000 to nearly $152,000 later this year. Additional increases would bring justice pay to nearly $171,000 by 2016.

The governor would see his pay raised by three percent in 2015 and another three percent in 2016 to a total of $127,629.

Pay for state legislators would increase by 33 percent in 2015 -- from roughly $31,000 now to nearly $41,000. Legislators' pay would increase to just over $42,000 in 2016.

Republican representative Mike Benson of Rochester was among those voicing his opposition before Monday's vote.

"This is an enormous increase when there are lots of families out there who aren't getting anywhere close to 33 percent increase in wages," he said.

Under the recommendations approved by the council, the heads of state agencies such as agriculture, education and commerce, could see even bigger percentage increases.

Tom Fraser, the chairman of the compensation council said it's time.

"What we have is a situation where our elected public officials haven't had their compensation changed in anywhere from five to 15 years, so we're playing catch up all once," he said.

Fraser said the salary increases for agency heads are crucial since their flat salaries are holding down raises for the managers beneath them, some of whom are taking more lucrative positions in the private sector.

If history is a guide the legislature will not feel compelled to follow the recommendations of the Compensation Council -- the very reason so many years have passed without raises.

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