Report could lead to pay raise for some elected officials in Utah

Posted at 4:59 PM, Dec 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-10 23:15:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- How would you like a 36 percent pay raise and a six figure salary?

That's what one group thinks some leaders in Utah's executive branch deserve.

An independent commission thinks Governor Gary Herbert is underpaid and should be making $40,000 more each year; he's not the only one poised to make a lot more if the legislature approves, the Attorney General would also rake in an extra $38,000. The recommendation, however, isn't sitting well with some lawmakers.

"We felt, looking at the history, it's been at least a decade now that there have been any significant adjustments in executive salaries," said Roger Tew, who is the chairman of the Utah Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission.

Tuesday he released a report containing the same recommendations as last year: Give the governor and other top leaders in state government a hefty pay raise, 36.5 percent to be exact.

Executive branch salaries over the years haven't budged much. The Governor hasn't received a raise since 2009, which was a $2,700 bump. Gary Herbert now makes a little more than $109,000. The state's Attorney General, $104,000. If the legislature approves the plan, the Governor would earn $150,000. The Attorney General would get more than $142,000.

"It's not a competitive issue in the sense of nobody is going to leave the Governor of Utah to become the Governor of Colorado," Tew said.

He said he thinks it's an issue of fair pay, saying compared to other high-demanding jobs in the private sector, executives in the public sector don't make nearly as much. The rationale, however, raised questions among some Democratic lawmakers.

"I just have some questions,” Senator Pat Jones said during a committee hearing about the issue Tuesday. “The percentage increase is really quite substantial when you look at 36.5 percent increase, and I'm just wondering if you were to explain this to the general public, who will be scrutinizing this, what justification very simply could you give?”

Still, a chart from the Council of State Governments outlining salaries of governors across the country puts Utah 12th in the nation, ranking fairly low. The average salary is more than $124,000, - with the highest paid at more than $206,00 in California.

"If it were to be phased in over a period of years, we have no objection to that, if it were to take effect 3 or 4 years from now, we have no objection to that, the question becomes, though, at some point are we setting a criteria that you must be independently wealthy to hold these offices?" Tew said.

The big bump in salary pay would not only include the governor and AG, but also the Lt. governor, auditor, treasurer, chief justice and district judge. Fox 13 News reached out to Gov. Gary Herbert's office for comment, but they didn’t want to touch this topic. Neither did the Utah Public Employees' Association.