State leaders won’t get a pay raise next year, but may see a modest cost of living increase

Gov. Gary Herbert should not get a pay raise next year, a special committee on salaries for the elected officials says.

Instead, he and the other four elected statewide officials – Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Auditor John Dougall, and Treasurer David Damschen — should all get 1.5 percent cost-of-living increases, the Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission told the Legislature’s Executive Appropriation Committee on Tuesday.

Utah’s judges should get a 1.5 percent straight pay hike, the commission said, mainly because judges have not regularly gotten cost-of-living raises over recent years.

That 1.5 percent increase should be repeated over the next two years (although future Legislatures will have to make those decisions).

In addition, judges should get a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year, the commission said.

The commission found, said commission chair former House Speaker David Clark, that pay raises approved by the Legislature back in 2016 put Herbert et al. actually above similar pay scales of top state elected officials in other comparable states.

So Herbert will keep his base salary of $156,825 a year – plus a 1.5 percent cost of living if lawmakers agree in their 2019 general session.

20181113 Pay Chart

Cox continues with his $141,142; Reyes his $148,983, Dougall and Damschen, $141,142 each.

Those salaries are a set percentage of the governor’s pay.

Herbert, of course, also gets free housing (the Governor’s Mansion), transportation (including the use of the state airplanes and helicopters, where appropriate) and a driver (UHP executive protection).

Herbert makes about $17,000 more a year than the national average for state governors. California’s governor makes the most at $195,808 annually. Maine’s governor makes the least at $70,000 a year.

Utah judges pay is higher than the national average for state judges, but by only around $1,000 a year for the Supreme Court, around $8,000 a year for other Utah judges.

A district court judge’s pay would go up by $2,494.50 a year under the recommendation, above the current salary of $162,250.

An appellate court judge now makes $170,350 and should get a raise of $2,619.

While the Utah Supreme Court justice gets $178,500 and should see a pay hike of $2,743 annually.

Several years ago the Legislature decided to tie the governor’s pay to other top elected officials.

That, in part, was done because back in the day when voters picked a Democratic attorney general, GOP legislators were angry with some of the AGs’ actions – and so didn’t want to give them a pay raise.

But cooler heads prevailed, and later the GOP legislative majority decided pay for top elected officials shouldn’t depend on partisan politics – and so tied that pay scale to the governor’s.

All of Utah’s top elected officials are now Republicans and have been since the late 1990s.

Republicans hold veto-proof majorities of over two-thirds in both the House and Senate.