March 28, 2020
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The latest plan to pay Maine politicians more is likely to go nowhere

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, listens to proceedings at the State House in Augusta in August 2019. Dow supports a salary raise for governors, but is wary of one for legislators.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A state commission is recommending pay raises for the governor and other officials, a proposal that is unlikely to gain traction.

Salaries for the governor, legislators and judges have long been low. The governor’s $70,000 salary has not changed since 1987 and is the lowest in the nation, as is pay for judges and justices, according to a draft report from the State Compensation Commission. Legislators’ salaries have increased incrementally each year, but benefits such as meals and housing haven’t changed in 28 years.

The commission, charged with periodically reviewing compensation for public officials under state law, is recommending changes that aren’t as drastic as previous efforts, but are still unlikely to succeed. Efforts from both legislators and governors — including former Gov. Paul LePage — have failed several times in the last 20 years.

The commission is proposing a $60,000 increase to the governor’s annual salary. At $130,000 annually that would put it in line with New Hampshire, which has the second-lowest pay for governors in the nation. It also recommended a $20,000 increase to the governor’s expense account, bringing it to $50,000. The commission recommended increasing pay for legislators by $6,500, and boosting mileage reimbursement from 44 cents up to 58 cents per mile.

The judicial branch supports the commission’s recommendations to increase the pay for the state’s justices and judges, according to spokeswoman Amy Quinlan. Recommended pay increases would range from 7 to 18 percent, with Supreme Court associate justices getting the biggest bump.

It might be politically unpopular for legislators to give themselves raises during an election year, although caucus leaders are aware of the challenges low compensation can pose. Maine Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, pointed to the $38 per night lodging compensation, saying, “There should be equity between being a representative from a community in York County and a community in Aroostook County.”

Whereas Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, said that he would support a salary increase for governors, but was wary of backing further increases to legislators’ pay. In November, he told the Portland Press Herald he would support increasing legislator pay to $20,000 a year.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills hasn’t taken a position on a pay increase, said spokeswoman Lindsay Crete, who noted it’s the Legislature’s decision.

 


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