During his campaign earlier this year Doug Burgum vowed to turn down his salary if elected governor.
Well, he won. Now Governor Burgum says he’s got a legal team on the problem of how to legally turn down his salary. “You would think that as governor that on the first day you could say, ‘I refuse my salary,'” he told reporter John Hageman earlier this week. “But this thing is hard-wired into a bunch of different places. So we’ve still got lawyers looking at trying to figure out how to get this thing done.”
He described the problem as a “poster child for some of the things that are wrong with government.”
I don’t agree.
Burgum’s vow to decline his salary was shallow politics in the first place. Now that he’s governor, what I don’t want him to do is create a precedent. A prerequisite for being elected governor in our state.
There are many levels of financial success, and for the last few decades our governors have been on the top levels. Our last four governors – from Burgum to Jack Dalrymple to John Hoeven to Ed Schafer – have been multi-millionaires. Men for whom the roughly $125,000 per-year gubernatorial salary doesn’t mean much.
But not everyone voters might like to consider as a potential governor has reached those lofty levels of financial success. For many people leaving behind their private sector endeavors to commit themselves full-time to being our state’s governor the salary is a necessity.
Burgum’s actions make it seem as though accepting that salary is somehow a bad thing. It’s not, as evidenced by the fact that nobody is talking about his Lt. Governor – former Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford – declining his salary.
The salary for our state’s governor is not particularly high. It ranks 33rd in the nation according to the Council of State Governments. It’s fair compensation for a tough job.
Burgum should stop burning calories on declining the salary. He’s got enough to do heading into a legislative session with a big budget problem to solve.
If he wants to donate his salary after accepting it that’s fine – the Fargo Forum has some ideas for that in an editorial out today – but he should absolutely accept it.