Iowa Democrats Upset With Proposed Pay Raise for Future Governors

By James Lynch, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Democrats are hitting Republican Gov. Terry Branstad for a proposal he's made to raise the salary of future governors.

"Branstad is out of touch proposing a $10,000 pay raise for himself," said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids.

"Iowans," Olson said, "are looking for jobs ... wondering how they will be able to pay for health insurance for their kids ... whether our schools will have the resources they need next year. Yet while Iowans' priorities remain unfunded Terry Branstad wants to make sure he personally gets more Iowa taxpayer dollars."

That's disrespectful, according to Olson.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht takes it as a sign of Democrats' respect for the governor that they have conceded he will be re-elected governor in 2014.

The salary increase would be for the winner of the 2014 gubernatorial race as well as all statewide elected officials, Albrecht pointed out. It does not increase Branstad's current $130,000-a-year salary.

"It is encouraging that Democrats see Gov. Branstad's re-election as a foregone conclusion," Albrecht said. "We appreciate their sentiments and support."

However, he added, Branstad has not yet made a decision on whether he will seek re-election.

Branstad submitted his annual bill to implement the collective bargaining agreement with state employees. It contains that, as well as his recommendations for officials.

Legislative leaders are not supportive of the pay increases.
"I don't expect us to take up that proposal," House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, also called it a non-starter.

The proposal would boost the Iowa attorney general's yearly salary from $123,669 to $134,800, while other statewide elected officials – lieutenant governor, secretaries of agriculture and state, secretary of agriculture and state treasurer – from their current $103,212 annual pay to $112,510 effective on Dec. 19, 2014.

Also, Iowa judges would be in line for a pay hike under the governor's proposal salary increases.

Currently, the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court is paid $170,850 annually and other justices are paid $163,200. The chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals makes $153,000 with other appellate judges earning $147,900, while chief district judges are paid $142,800 and other district judges receive $137,000 each year.

Under the proposed legislation, the new salaries effective June 21 would be as follows: the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, $186,220; other Supreme Court justices, $177,880; chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals, $166,770; other appellate judges, $161,220; chief district judges, $155,650; other district judges, $150,090.

The proposal also sought to boost the pay for state legislators who are sworn-in when the 85th Iowa General Assembly is seated in January 2015. By law, state lawmakers are not allowed to increase their own pay so an intervening election would have to take place before any pay increase took effect.

However, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that appeared to be a moot point given the chilly reception the pay proposal was receiving among legislators.

"The prognosis is not good," he said.

Salaries for Iowa legislators and top statewide elected officials were last raised in 2005. At that time, the 17.3 percent increased vaulted Iowa's gubernatorial salary to 16th highest nationwide, but the $130,000 yearly pay has since slipped into a tie for 26th place nationally with Louisiana.

Annual salaries paid to U.S. governors range from $179,000 in New York to $70,000 in Maine, according to the latest data compiled by the Council on State Governments. Some governors' salaries include travel allowances, official residences, chauffeured automobiles and access to airplanes, helicopters or other perks.

Iowa's part-time legislators currently are paid $25,000 a year, with top leaders getting $37,000 in the House and Senate, and pro temp leaders in each chamber paid $27,000. Lawmakers also receive $135 a day ($101.25 in Polk County) in expense money when the General Assembly is in regular session (110 days first year, 100 days second year) along with mileage, IPERS retirement, other benefits, and access to state health insurance at no premium cost if they so choose.

(Rod Boshart contributed to this story)
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