Executive Branch Officials Get Pay Increases Under Governor’s Budget

Drew Wrigley, Jack Dalrymple

Taking a look at Governor Dalrymple’s proposed budgets for the various executive office holders reveals big pay increases. Dalrymple intends for these statewide elected officials to each reap an 11.4% pay increase from 2012 to 2015.

Here’s the specific dollar amounts for each office (you can read the actual bills here, look at HB1001 – HB1010).

Governor: $113,594 in 2012 to $126,549 after 2014

Lt. Governor: $88,183 in 2012 to $98,241 after 2014

Sec. of State: $90,360 in 2012 to $100,666 after 2014

Attorney General: $134,135 in 2012 to $149,432 after 2014

Auditor: $90,360 in 2012 to $100,666 after 2014

Treasurer: $85,306 in 2012 to $95,062 after 2014

Tax Commissioner: $98,068 in 2012 to $105,051 after 2014

Public Service Commissioners: $92,835 in 2012 to $103,412 after 2014

Ag Commissioner: $92,826 in 2012 to $103,412 after 2014

Insurance Commissioner: $90,306 in 2012 to $100,658 after 2014

I can tell you that Governor Dalrymple’s requests for pay increases won’t be the largest considered by the legislature. I’ve spoken with a legislator who tells me there will be a bill put in place to make it law that the governor, and the lieutenant governor, are the highest paid elected officials in the state.

Right now I believe the highest paid elected official in the state is Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, though I’d note (as a grim sort of commentary) that there are plenty of higher ed officials, faculty and sports coaches who make far more than any elected official in the state. That bill makes sense. The governor is the top official in the state, followed by the lieutenant governor, and should be paid accordingly.

People get really wound up about pay for elected officials, but I don’t mind compensating them well for their service. That can be a hard point to swallow given how hard they work, and how much they spend, to get elected to these offices. That being said, serving the public as an elected official is hard work. Pay for elected officials is a minuscule portion of overall state spending, and if we pay them a lot of money the odds that they’ll feel the need to be corrupt are less.

Not a lot less, but still.

I don’t think we need to pay these people lavishly, as we do in some other parts of state government (a newspaper editor in the state once justified six-digit salaries in higher ed by suggesting that it was appropriate that university presidents be paid like CEO’s), but I don’t think pay for North Dakota’s public officials is anywhere near lavish.

Update: OMB Director Pam Sharp called me this morning to say that I was indicating this pay increase was happening in a smaller window than it really is. Originally I put that these increases would take place between 2012 and 2014, but technically the higher rates don’t kick in until after 2014, which would be 2015.

I’ve corrected that to reflect the wider time window.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • matthew_bosch

    I still hold to the romantic notion that being an elected official is sort of a sacrifice. A one time trip to represent your community. To spend your time wisely and then come home to pass the baton on to someone else. Don’t get me wrong, there should be compensation, but while being a representative, one’s time should be spend sitting in an old upright wooden chair as opposed to a Lazy Boy recliner.

    I know…I’m naive.

    • guest

      You’re not naive. It shows you have intelligence. Public service used to mean exactly that. Unfortunately today not so much. Most politicians focus on career longevity and power and ego instead of job results. I wonder what our Founding Fathers would think about our political system today?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The argument to that might be that if we make compensation for public service too spartan it encourages corruption.

      • matthew_bosch

        Spartan is relative. I’ll risk the potential corruption.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I think we’re debating over relative nickles in the budget.

  • JW-American

    It would be nice to be able to attract very well qualified people that could afford to take great pay cuts (as Dew Wrigley did) to serve the public, but those folks are few and far between.

    One choosing to serve state office has to weigh out leaving not only ones career for a year to campaign on the risk that he/she may loose the election, but they must leave their communities and possibly have to sell their homes and buy again in Bismarck.

    Its not like they apply and if they are accepted, and they are offered a comp pkg, then decide weather to take the position, they gamble on the low information voter to fill in the circle next to their name on a ballot, they may or may not even be able to read.

    We need to be able to attract and retain good folks, the decisions they make are too important to all of us to be handle by any one less.

    The level of that comp pkg? i’m sure that is where the legislature will have to weigh both sides of the discussion.

  • Barry Argabright

    I think it is only right that the Gov and Lt Gov are the highest paid state employees. It is rediculous that now that distinction is probably held by a hockey and football coach. The salaries proposed above are very modest in my opinion for the effort required. We must be careful though that we do not create a system like the Feds where they are paid for life or have benefits/privileges/laws that are not consistant with what the citizenry of the state enjoy.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I agree with this, though I might be more inclined to paying hockey and football coaches less instead of giving the elected officials too much in terms of pay increases.

      Though I agree that what these officials are paid now is pretty modest.

      • RCND

        Hockey and Football coaches are paid at a rate the market will bear. I don’t agree with that rate either, but they get what they get because that is the going price for coaches at the D1 level. What is nice, however, is their only tenure is their contract unlike other university system employees. Coaches are hired to win, and if they don’t they are either not renewed or cut loose early. Once professors get tenure they have no real deliverables

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Hockey and Football coaches are paid at a rate the market will bear.

          Yes, but it’s a very inflated market. A lot of the sports programs at state schools wouldn’t exist without heavy taxpayer subsidies.

          The programs aren’t profitable. The “market” is created by the governemnt.

  • camsaure

    Maybe their increases should be proportionate to hom much of our tax dollars they save and quit wasting.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’d be ok with some sort of performance pay for the politicians, but i’m not sure how you’d structure that.

  • Tim

    Lets not forget the free health insurance they get for themselves and their families as well as the 9 1/2 % annual pension amount that is paid for entirely by the taxpayers. They get compensated adequately in my opinion and are in it more for the glory and ego than for serving the public!

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    I don’t begrudge elected officials making money. My own belief is that raises shouldn’t kick in until after the next election. That way the politician requires voter approval to get a raise.

    Many of us complain about government pay scales, but I have never heard a good explanation of how much they should be paid and how we simultaneously attract good people to office and ensure that they are there for service, not to get kickbacks or wield influence.

    I do know that there is no way I would ever pursue elected office. A few people wanted me to run for city council and I refused. There is too much ugliness, campaigning, and dealing with the public in an elected office. There is also the possibility of people digging up unpleasantness (real or perceived) from the past or present. I just don’t want to live that kind of life, and I’m glad to pay others to do so.

    People expect politicians to be saviors and to do things for “the people”. The real job of a politician should be to create an environment that provides maximum freedom for people to do things for themselves.

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