A citizens’ commission evaluating pay for 479 statewide politicians, lawmakers and judges is expected to adopt a two-year pay freeze today at a meeting in Tacoma.
The 16-member Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials recommended a pay freeze in January after two days of hearings and comments from affected officeholders. A freeze would mirror the Legislature’s decision this year to deny cost-of-living pay increases to state and public school employees.
After three public hearings around the state, little occurred to change the commission’s basic frame of mind, chairman Alan Doman said Monday.
“Most of it has been critical or not encouraging any kind of salary increases for anybody,” Doman said of the limited public comments received. “That’s just reinforced the comments that already have come.”
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If there is one group of officials whose pay the commission most reluctant to freeze, it is the judiciary. That is because the commission has set out to raise the judiciary’s pay over time to bring it in line with salaries on the federal bench, Doman said.
A pay freeze would leave the governor’s pay at $166,891, the attorney general’s at $151,718, Supreme Court justices’ at $164,221, and both the superintendent of public instruction’s and state lands commissioner’s at $121,618.
Some taxpayers have suggested the commission should reduce pay for officials during this time of economic volatility and budget shortfalls.
But the commission’s Web site, www.salaries.wa.gov, says that is not permitted under the constitutional amendment that created the commission.
Voters approved that amendment in 1987.
“I think it’s a fair question,” Doman said of pay cuts. “I think if we had that opportunity (under the law), we could well have discussion around that.”
But changing the commission’s powers would require another constitutional amendment and voter approval.
The commission’s decisions on pay are final.
The commission meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Downtown Courtyard Hotel, 1515 Commerce St., Tacoma.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688
Here is the current salary schedule, which the salary commission previously recommended to keep intact for 2009 and 2010:
Attorney general: $151,718
Superintendent of public instruction and state lands commission: $121,618
Secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner: $116,950
Lieutenant governor: $93,948
Supreme Court justices: $164,221
Court of appeals judges: $156,328
Superior Court judges: $148,832
District Court judges: $141,710
House speaker and Senate majority leader: $50,106
Senate and House minority leader: $46,106
Rank-and-file legislators: $42,106