Senate approves governor's raise

Aides included, but not legislators

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Alaska Senate passed a priority bill before the midnight deadline Tuesday giving the administration and the governor a pay raise.

The governor's salary would be raised more than 50 percent, from $81,648 to about $125,000, and the lieutenant governor's pay would increase from $76,188 to $100,000, effective after the 2006 election.

There was no debate on the final vote of the bill Tuesday. The bill passed 17-2, with Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, and Donny Olson, D-Nome, voting against it.

Ellis said he didn't have the stomach for this bill when more important legislation awaits.

"The Murkowski administration has regulations that penalize people in assisted living homes," said Ellis, as one issue he said senators should have debated instead.

Democrats such as Sen. Al Kookesh, D-Angoon, voted for the bill because it also raises the salaries of their staffs and all legislative aides.

"I've been here for nine years and every year our staff has got less pay than the majority members and this bill can give them a much-needed raise," said Kookesh, who has two staff members to hear the concerns of the 127 communities in his district.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, tried to amend the bill last week in the House to make pay for all legislators' aides equal.

The amendment was defeated after House Rules Committee Chairman Norman Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, said Republican aides deserve more money because they work for committee chairmen.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said at least the commissioners deserved a pay raise because officers of their qualifications can go elsewhere and make more than twice the amount.

"They have to move to Juneau, leave their friends behind. If they have kids, they have to leave their schools behind. It's just difficult to attract good people," Elton said.

House Bill 98 began as an effort to even the pay of some 2,000 non-union public employee with those in unions. But throughout the process, legislators tacked on the raises for other state officials, including themselves.

A Senate Finance committee amended the bill to increase lawmakers' salary from $24,012 to $28,640 per year. Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Chugiak, said it is overdue because their salaries have not gone up in 14 years.

But the measure was taken out during the Senate floor session. Elton heard that the administration pressured the Senate to remove the pay raise for legislators because it feared the entire bill would not pass in a conference committee with the House, which is mixed on raising lawmakers' salaries.

Department commissioners would get raised from $91,200 to $98,000, with the governor having the option to raise it to $108,000.

Non-union workers stand to get a 7 percent increase effective July 1 and another 2 percent raise next year.

The House passed the bill last week and now it heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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