Pay Raises for Governor, Legislators in the Works, as Revenues Improve Slightly

By Len Lazarick,

(Dec. 12, 2013) Salary hikes for Maryland’s next governor, members of the General Assembly and other statewide officials elected next year are set to be decided next week by two compensation commissions specially appointed for this task.

None of these officials have had pay hikes since 2006, and the legislature rejected recommendations from these same commissions four years ago to increase the salaries slightly.

“Are they really going to pay attention to us this time?” asked Robert Neall, who was elected chairman of the Governor’s Compensation Commission in his absence but spoke to the other members by speaker phone at their first meeting Wednesday night. Neall had served on the commission four years ago, and “I feel like Charlie Brown with the football.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley currently is paid $150,000 a year, the 12th highest governor’s salary in the nation, and lower than that paid the chief executives in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.

The commission four years ago recommended the governor’s pay go up $5,000 every year over the next four-year term to $170,000.

The lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and state treasurer all make $125,000 a year, and the commission four years ago suggested their salaries rise by the same percentage as the governor’s.

Legislators now make $43,500

Delegates and senators in Maryland make $43,500, 13th highest in the nation, and fourth highest for a part-time legislature. The Senate president and House speaker make $56,500.

Four years ago, the General Assembly Compensation Commission recommended that the legislators get a $2,000 pay hike in 2013, but only if the state unemployment rate fell below 5%, which did not happen.

The legislature’s presiding officers immediately rejected that plan due to the poor economic conditions and the fact that state employees had been getting no pay hikes and unpaid furloughs, essentially temporary pay cuts.

Members of both commissions seem inclined to support pay increases again. State employees got raises of 2% and 3% in the last two years.

State revenues, economy increasing slightly

The revenue picture for the state government also is better due to “a slowly improving economy,” State Comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday at the meeting of the Board of Revenue Estimates. The board approved revenue estimates for this year and next that were up a net of $42 million.

The governor must abide by these estimates in preparing his budget to be submitted in January.

“Most of the impediments of economic growth … appear to be behind us,” said Franchot, especially if Congress approves a long-term budget solution worked out this week. Yet, the ever cautious Franchot said, “Maryland’s economy remains exceedingly challenging,” with slow growth of both wages and retail sales.

“The sky is clearly brightening,” said State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who serves ex officio on both the Board of Revenue Estimates and the Governor’s Compensation Commission.

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