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Commission rejects pay raises for state officials
8/3/2012 2:22:00 PM
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX -- It doesn't look like the state's next governor will earn any more than Jan Brewer.
Ditto for the secretary of state, attorney general and all the other state officials.
On a 3-2 vote Wednesday, members of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers rejected proposals for pay hikes for those who are elected in 2014. Foes said that whatever the merits of the plan, this isn't the time for it.
``People are still losing their houses, still losing their jobs,' said Bill Feldmeier. ``We cannot defend increasing salaries, no matter how appropriate it would be.'
Judges from the Supreme Court down through superior courts fared no better, with the same 3-2 vote defeating a pay hike plan for them.
Technically speaking, that is not the last word.
Brewer remains free to ignore Wednesday's vote and make her own recommendations to the Legislature as part of her budget proposal. And they then have 90 days to reject or amend those.
But Pete Dunn, who has lobbied for years on behalf of the judges, said that's not likely. He said no governor has ever ignored a zero-raise recommendation from the commission.
Wednesday's move puts the officials in the same financial boat as lawmakers: A move last month by some commissioners to recommend a $6,000 hike from the current $24,000 salary also failed to pass, even though that proposal would have gone to voters in November.
Under state law, the commission meets every two years to consider what pay is appropriate.
Any recommendations then go to the governor who is free to accept, modify or reject them in her budget request to the Legislature. And if lawmakers do not specifically reject or alter what the governor has proposed, it takes effect the next time each office is vacant.
In this case, that would mean 2015 for statewide offices.
Commission member Joe Kanefield said pay hikes are appropriate, starting with the governor.
He said the $95,000 salary is among the lowest in the country. And Kanefield pointed out that many of her senior staffers actually earn more.
And the last raise for virtually all statewide officials kicked in after the 1998 election.
Dennis Mitchem agreed. And he was particularly unhappy that the governor earns $65,000 less than the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.
``We are making a statement by the salaries that are now in effect that the judiciary is far more important than the executive and I think the legislative,' he said.
``That is a strange form of government,' Mitchem continued. ``In my view they ought to be equal.'
But a move to equalize the salaries gained no traction. And Mitchem picked up only the vote of Kanefield with an alternative for a $15,000 raise.
``I am a retired CPA and a great believer in the market,' he said. ``I believe you get what you pay for.'
But Brian Kaufman said he does not believe that people run for governor -- or do not -- because of the salary.
``There have been plenty of candidates that are more than qualified,' he said.
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