A pay raise could be in the future for Maryland politicians.
The General Assembly Compensation Committee and the Governor’s Salary Commission will recommend salary increases for the governor, lieutenant governor and state legislators when the General Assembly goes back into session Jan. 8.
The General Assembly Compensation Commission will recommended that members of the Maryland House and Senate receive a 16 percent pay increase over the next four years, increasing legislators’ salaries from $43,500 to $50,330 by 2018, said Simon Powell, analyst for the committee. The two presiding officers, the Senate president and the House speaker would replace their $56,500 yearly salaries with a $65,371 figure by the end of the next elected body’s term.
The Governor’s Salary Commission will suggest the governor’s salary of $150,000 be increased to $170,000 over the course of the next four years. The lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and state treasurer, all of whom make $125,000 a year, are up for a raise by the same percentage.
The commission’s goal in recommending this raise was to get the governor’s salary on par with the salaries of the two highest-paid Maryland county executives, said commission analyst Steven McCulloch. County executives in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties both make more than $180,000 per year.
U.S. governors make an average of $133,348, according to June 2013 Pew Research data. Although the governor’s salary in Maryland rests in the top half of governors, Gov. Martin O’Malley makes less than executives of nearby states such as Delaware ($171,000), Virginia ($175,000) and Pennsylvania ($187,256).
In Baltimore, the city approved a 2.5 percent pay increase last month for the mayor, comptroller and city counselors. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s annual salary will be $163,365 at the start of 2014.
None of the officials has received a raise since 2006. Most recently, in 2010, the General Assembly rejected higher salary recommendations made by the commissions. Both commissions make salary suggestions to the General Assembly every four years.
Powell, analyst for the General Assembly Compensation Committee, said the decision to increase the salary of legislators involved a number of factors analysts look at todetermine the new salary recommendation.
“They [the commission] decided they wanted to catch up for the net zero increases in the last eight years and provide for some modest increases in the future,” said Powell, adding that the commission sought to make up for the 2010 decision by the legislature to reject the recommended pay increases. “It’s basically the CPI [consumer price index] for the last eight years plus the forecasted CPI.”
Maryland has what is called a “white” legislature. Unlike “red” legislatures that require members to spend about 80 percent or more of a full-time job on their legislative duties or “blue” legislatures that require about 50 percent of the time a full-time job takes, legislatures such as Maryland’s fall in between that gap, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The state of Maryland currently has a $100 million structural deficit. Data from the end of the last fiscal year puts the state’s total outstanding debt at $10.6 billion.
Next, the commissions will present their recommendations to the General Assembly, which will then have the opportunity to accept each suggestion as it is, reject it or amend it, a process that would then lead to another, separate joint resolution that would be addressed later in the session. If accepted, the change will take effect in time for the 2015 session. “It’s designed so it will affect the next legislative body,” said Powell.
Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-41) said he believes the recommendation will be accepted this time around.
“It’s an appropriate compensation for the work that we do as state legislators,” said Rosenberg. “I would hope that the people I represent believe that I work hard on their behalf and that this is merited.”
Republican Jewish Coalition member Jon Parks said that state officials should have higher salaries, but added that at this point they haven’t earned it based on merit.
“I don’t have a problem with them making more,” said Parks. “My problem is with their performance.”
Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, agreed.
“The general opinion of our party here is $43,500 a year is adequate enough for somebody who serves three months of the year,” said Cluster. “In these times where unemployment is still overly high, I think tax dollars shouldn’t be wasted on giving government employees [the governor, lieutenant governor and the legislature] a raise.”
Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter