The Executive and Judicial Compensation Commission (EJCC) recommended to the Executive Appropriations Committee Tuesday that Utah’s five statewide elected officials receive “substantial increases” to thier pay. So pressing was this need in their mind that the EJCC re-submitted their 2012 report outlining this conclusion.
Under the proposed plan, Utah’s Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Auditor would receive a pay raise of 36.5 percent, raising the Governor’s salary from $109,900 to $150,000 per year, and the other four offices from $104,400 to $142,500 annually.
Roger Tew, Chair of the EJCC acknowledged that the process of discussing a pay raise for these offices is inherently political, but noted that it has been nearly a decade since salaries have been adjusted and that “there is a strong case to be made for the adjustment of these salaries.” Tew told the committee that the EJCC would not be opposed to the idea of holding off any salary increase until 2017, when the next round of elected officials could take office.
Tew would also not be opposed to a phased in approach, rather than the substantial pay bumps going into effect all at once.
The commission was tasked with comparing the job titles and responsibilities of the five elected officials to other high-profile positions both within Utah’s government and other states in the country. Unfortunately, they say, this was a difficult task as time commitment and responsibilities are too different to be directly comparable. The closest analogy they could find was a Utah Supreme Court Justice, who earns just over $147,000 a year.
The report also pointed out that the average appointed official in Utah actually earns a salary higher than Governor Herbert. On average, a statewide appointed official currently brings home nearly $118,000 a year—the highest is Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Executive Director Carlos Braceras, who takes home $160,000 a year. The lowest is the Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Gary Harter, whose income is listed at $97,200 this year. Adding to their study, the EJCC pointed out that the average university president in Utah earns over $218,300 annually, while school district superintendents, on average, earn just over $124,725.
Senator Pat Jones (Democrat – Holladay) questioned Tew, asking what the justification was behind a 36.5 percent pay raise. “The numbers work that way because the salary hasn’t adjusted in ten years…We understand the political issue,” Tew responded. “We wanted to make sure that we have some basic rationale,” added Tew, “the question becomes: at some point are we setting a criteria where you must be independently wealthy to hold these offices? Given that it has been a decade, [a] two, three, four percent [pay increase] doesn’t deal with the issue.”
“What we are somewhat fearful of is that some people who are not independently wealthy can’t afford to serve,” said EJCC commissioner David Jones, also testifying before the committee.
Jones added that the public expects these officials to live off the salary provided and, with that, are expected to not have a need to seek outside employment on other boards or organizations. In other countries, said Jones, elected officials must resort to bribes and influence in order to sustain themselves and their families.
In September, then Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell stepped down from office, specifically quoting his “need to make some money.”
The recommendations of the EJCC would need to be carried by a lawmaker and passed though the legislative process in January in order for the pay raises to take effect. The success of such a bill is uncertain in light of recent scandals in the Attorney General’s office.
Governor Herbert’s budget, released last week, only allocated for a 1 percent pay raise for public employees.
To view the commissions report, click here.