Gov. Gary Herbert currently makes less than most of his Cabinet members, and an independent commission says now is the time to consider a raise for the governor and other elected officials.
The Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission unanimously recommended raising the governor’s salary to $150,000 a year, a 36 percent jump from $109,900, and bumping salaries for other statewide elected officials to $142,500.
Roger Tew, who chaired the commission, said pay raises have been put off for close to a decade and, even though people would run for office if the salary was next to nothing, it “ought to be at a level you don’t have to be independently wealthy to seek the jobs.”
Herbert said Monday that he hasn’t heard anything about the commission’s recommendation. Currently, he makes more than a dozen other governors.
David Bird, who was vice-chairman of the commission, said that with an economy that is growing and a governor who now has been elected to a full term in office, it is the right time to make the change.
Bird said the commission heard comments from the public that elected officials don’t need a higher salary because they can rely on their campaign accounts.
“I think that’s a very pernicious kind of perception out there,” Bird said. “If the public believes that our elected officials are somehow paying their bills through something other than their job … then we start to lose the confidence we have to have in public officials.”
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said the Legislature will look at compensation issues this year, but said it will be up to the body to decide what is appropriate.
Legislators, meantime, could see a change to their own salaries.
Currently, lawmakers get $117 for each day they are in session or attending meetings, plus a $95 allowance for lodging and $61 for meals, but they can pocket the money if they sleep in their own bed or eat out. Several legislators have rejected the per diems.
Under the change that Dee is proposing, legislators would be paid a lump sum of $16,380 a year — an average of $273 a day for 60 days — for the 45-day session and additional meetings during the year. That is designed to reflect the current $117 salary plus the two per diems.
On top of that, they would get reimbursed for any actual meals, lodging or travel expenses incurred, meaning a lawmaker who lives outside the Wasatch Front and stays in a hotel and gets reimbursed for meals would see an increase in compensation of about $156 daily.
Part-time legislators receive health benefits similar to full-time state employees. The state pays 90 percent of the premium.
Last year, the Senate balked at passing the change, but Dee said now his Senate colleagues have committed to making the change early in the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.