State commission nixes Palin pay increase

RAISE: Governor declines, but panel still wants more money for legislators.

January 11, 2009 

JUNEAU -- A state commission has reversed its recommendation for a pay raise to Gov. Sarah Palin, but the panel is still pushing for a $15,000 average raise for state legislators.

The State Officers Compensation Commission had earlier recommended salary increases for Palin, top state department heads and lawmakers.

Under the recommendations, increased pay for top officials would amount to about $1 million, with the bulk of that going to legislators.

Neither the governor nor department heads had sought the salary increases.

Palin has said she would not accept an increase.

In response, the commission abandoned its earlier proposal to raise Palin's salary from $125,000 to $150,000.

"Under the circumstances, we have decided to drop the recommendation for the governor's salary," said Gordon Harrison, a member of the commission.

Commission member Mike Miller said he supported increasing the salary for Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, but agreed to Palin's request on her own salary.

"I personally think the governor's and lieutenant governor's salaries should be moved (higher), but I understand the political side of that," he said.

Recommendations will formally be submitted by Jan. 29, then they will automatically become law unless the lawmakers pass a bill specifically rejecting them.

The commission was created by the Legislature last year with the hopes of higher salaries for legislators. The panel held its first public hearing on the recommendations in December and a second hearing on Saturday.

Under the recommendations, legislator pay -- currently with a base rate of $24,012 annually -- would be increased to $50,400 a year. Long-term per diem, the money lawmakers receive for working when they are not in session, would be eliminated.

Commission member Tom McGrath said he supported axing long-term per diem, which winds up going to legislators at dramatically different rates.

"I think we've done a lot increasing the legislative salary, and the long-term per diem for me had always been problematic," he said.

The recommendations also call for pay increases for the commissioners who head departments of state government. Their salaries would increase between $5,000 and $7,000 to a flat $135,000.

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