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Time for a raise for elected Utah officials, panel says

Published December 10, 2013 8:54 pm

Under recommendations, guv's salary would jump to $150K; A.G.'s pay would rise to $142K.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After 10 years, it's time to give the Utah governor, attorney general and other statewide elected officials a substantial pay raise — nearly 37 percent — according to a panel that studied the issue.

"What we're somewhat fearful of is that some people who are not independently wealthy can't afford to serve," said David Bird, vice chairman of the Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission.

Under the commission's recommendations, the governor's salary would jump from $109,900 to $150,000. The lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer would all go from $104,400 to $142,500.

The average Utah wage is about $40,000 a year, according to data from the Department of Workforce Services.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, asked how lawmakers can justify the pay raise to the general public.

Roger Tew, chairman of the commission, said the reason the pay hike is so steep is because it had been so long since any of the elected officials had seen a raise.

Tew noted that almost every department head in the executive branch is paid more than the governor, as are more than 20 mayors around the state. Likewise, most city and county attorneys are paid more than the attorney general.

"It's not a competitive issue. Nobody's going to leave being governor of Utah and be governor of Colorado," Tew said. "And you'd also almost always have people willing to run for office if they had to pay for it."

But for a full-time position with the time commitments, Tew said, it made sense to ensure the elected officials are paid a reasonable salary.

The commission recommended the same pay raise last year, but the Utah Legislature did not hike the top executive wages. The Legislature may address the issue this year.

Tew said the Legislature could decide to structure the increase to kick in years from now, after another election, or phase it in over several years, but argued the pay raise should happen.

The commission did not recommend a pay hike for Utah legislators, who changed the way they are paid each year and now make $273 per day.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke