Citizen panel says state politicians need more pay

SALEM — With the economy struggling — and an election just days away — Gov. Ted Kulongoski and legislators were less than enthused about a panel's recommendation that they all receive big pay raises.

The Public Officials Compensation Commission, an 11-member panel comprised of citizens, on Thursday recommended that the governor's salary balloon from $93,600 to $130,000 — a raise of almost 40 percent. Salaries for the secretary of state, treasurer, labor commissioner and schools superintendent would leap from $72,000 to $100,000.

Part-time legislators would see their annual pay climb from $20,592 to $25,200, with extra for leaders. Circuit court judges would go from $114,468 to $132,000.

The suggested raises must be included in Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed budget for 2009-11. Legislators, however, don't have to approve them.

With tax revenue falling, the unemployment rate rising and wages for many Oregon workers not keeping up with inflation, legislators — at least publicly — seemed cool to the idea of awarding steep raises to themselves.

"Salary increases are not on the table for me right now," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. Said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone: "There are many other priorities on our agenda that come well before consideration of a legislative pay raise."

The citizen panel studied salaries in other states and found that Oregon had lower wages than most. They calculated median salaries to come up with the recommended pay.

The commissioners said bigger paychecks are needed to attract quality leaders.

"It's a bad time to be making this recommendation, and we on the commission understand that," said Doris Johnson, a retired Umpqua Community College executive director who serves as chairwoman of the board.

"We did what we were asked to do. They're facts, they're not our opinion of what we think (officials should earn)."

Anna Richter Taylor, a spokeswoman for Kulongoski, said the governor had not sought a raise, but does want lawmakers to give one to judges.

"What that amount would be is still subject to conversation with the Legislature," she said.

— The Associated Press

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