Lawmakers to consider 20 percent raises for NE governor, other top officials

LAWMAKERS DECIDE: Nebraska lawmakers may decide soon whether the governor and other constitutional officers get a pay increase. (AP photo)

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers will debate a bill that would give a half-dozen top elected state officials a 20 percent pay raise next year.

The bill passed by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday would give all of the state’s constitutional officers raises.

The committee is chaired by Sen. Bill Avery, D-Lincoln, who introduced the bill last year, LB217, that would increase the paychecks of six state officials. The bill originally would have also bumped up the pay of the five members of the Public Service Commission, but that was amended out of the bill.

The governor’s salary would go from $105,000 to $126,000; the lieutenant governor’s $75,000 salary would increase to $90,000; the attorney general’s from $95,000 to $114,000; and the secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer would increase from $85,000 to $102,000.

Avery said last year that while that might look like a big bump, most of the salaries would still be lower than the national average. Only the lieutenant governor’s salary would be about $1,500 higher than the national average.

Lawmakers generally tackle salaries every six to eight years, since constitutional officers’ salaries are set by law, unlike lawmakers’ pay, which are set in the constitution.

The last time the state officials got raises was in 2007, and before that, 2003. The 2007 pay raises ranged from 23 percent for the governor to 50 percent for PSC commissioners, and the 2003 raises ranged from 16 percent for the attorney general to 30 percent for the governor.

The salaries of constitutional officers can’t be adjusted during their terms, so the bill would change them in 2015.

Last year, Avery said state employees under union contracts have averaged about 2 percent raises per year, so they’d get about 16 percent raises over the same eight-year time period. If lawmakers don’t adjust the salaries this year it could be “well past 2015” before they are revisited, he said.

“This might seem large,” Avery said during the public hearing last year. “I would remind you that eight years is a long time to go without a pay increase. … We don’t have to do it, but it’s probably the right thing to do.”

Some lawmakers have questioned whether the public would approve of the raises, given their overwhelming November 2012 vote against increasing the pay of legislators from $12,000 to $22,500 annually.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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