JUNEAU -- Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell is calling proposed salary increases for himself and other stop state officials "reasonable," saying it will be up to the Legislature to decide whether the raises are appropriate.
The State Officers Compensation Commission has called for increased pay for the governor, lieutenant governor and state commissioners who head various departments.
Parnell currently makes $145,000 a year, with the commission saying he should instead get $150,872 starting July 1, followed by another 2.5 percent raise in 2015.
The salary commission had earlier attempted to raise the governor's salary to $150,000 as one of its first acts after the panel was created in 2008. Sarah Palin, Parnell's predecessor and acting governor when the commission was formed, rejected the raise, saying that if it were approved, she'd donate the money to charity or find some other way not to accept it.
The governor's wage was removed from that recommendation, though members still maintained the governor's salary should be higher.
Palin's decision to forego the raise followed her run for the vice presidency, during which the Washington Post revealed she'd augmented her gubernatorial salary by thousands of dollars, billing the state for per-diem on days she was away from her official residence in the Juneau Governor's House and staying in her own Wasilla home.
Parnell said that this year's salary recommendations, if they are approved by the commission after a public hearing, will be "thoroughly vetted" by the Legislature.
The salary commission was originally created by legislators seeking a way to increase their own salaries without the political difficulty of doing it themselves. The Legislature included in the commission's duties setting the pay for the governor, lieutenant governor and commissioners, though the Palin administration had not sought that.
This year's salary commission recommendations don't include increases for legislators.
Raises were recommended for the heads of the state's largest departments, such as Corrections and Natural Resources, who are mostly called "commissioners" -- but also for Attn. Gen. Michael Geraghty, who heads the Department of Law.
They'd get pay boosts from $136,350 to $146,142.
The increase had not been sought by the Parnell administration, but the governor’s spokeswoman Sharon Leighow noted that "some agency heads have taken pay cuts to enter state service."
She didn't say whether pay levels had created difficulty in hiring commissioners. "Commissioners are driven by their desire to serve the public," she said.
After the salary commission's recommendations are finalized, there will be a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing. Then, whatever the commission decided will become law unless both houses of the Legislature introduce and pass bills rejecting the increases within 60 days of receiving the recommendations.
"The governor believes the suggested salary increases are reasonable," Leighow said.
The salary commission is required to submit its recommendations within 10 days of the beginning of the session.
The commission has recommended a raise to $119,672 for Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, with another 2.5 increase next year. Treadwell said he doesn't need or want the raise, and wouldn't mind if the Legislature rejected it.
Treadwell, who is running for U.S. Senate, said his current $115,000 salary was adequate.
"I'm not starving on the wage that I'm getting here, and I'm not looking to increase my wealth or get rich while serving either," he said.
Contact Pat Forgey at pat(at)alaskadispatch.com