A bill that would reject pay raises for the governor and his commissioners is on track to get a vote in the Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill on Friday. The pay-raise recommendations come from a non-partisan board that look at factors like cost of living and salaries for comparable positions in other states. The State Officers compensation commission advised that the governor’s salary should be increased from $145,000 to $150,873, that his commissioners salaries should be raised from $136,350 to $146,143, and that the lieutenant governor should see a pay bump from $115,000 to $119,658.
Finance Co-Chair Kevin Meyer acknowledged he would like to accept the recommendations, but that “the timing is not good when we’re in deficit spending here.”
There was some pushback on rejecting the recommendations completely. Right now, more than half of the state’s deputy commissioners make more than the commissioners themselves.
Sen. Anna Fairclough, an Eagle River Republican, thought the recommendations might help address that.
“What troubles me the most about rejection is the inequity between a deputy commissioner and a commissioner,” said Fairclough. “If we have talent that is in the ranks, and that they’re not moving up to take those additional responsibilities, and still making more than the person who did, that might create some friction inside of those departments.”
She ultimately agreed to advance the bill out of committee, but supported amending it.
The conversation over bill also triggered some discussion over the point of high compensation for the state’s executives. Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat from Golovin who caucuses with the Senate Majority, noted that salary was often besides the point when someone takes on the position of governor or commissioner.
“You’re not running because of what the pay’s going to be,” said Olson. “You’re running because you feel like you can do a service to the State of Alaska and affect public policy.”
Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, said he thought it was misguided to use salaries to attract people to state executive positions, but for a different reasons.
“I don’t mind that the state doesn’t get the best and the brightest,” said Kelly. “We do tend to attract the best and the brightest on a lot of levels. I would actually prefer they were in the private sector, because that’s what really drives our economy.”
He qualified his statement by saying that salary should not be an object when it comes to the attorney general or natural resources commissioner.
Gov. Sean Parnell has already said he would reject an increase to his own salary. If the commission’s pay raise recommendations are not rejected, the cost of the raises would be upwards of $200,000.