State panel recommends big pay raises for Maine Governor, lawmakers, judges

Left to right: Senate President Troy Jackson, Governor Janet Mills, Speaker Sara Gideon.

AUGUSTA – A state panel is recommending large raises to the salaries of elected officials in the Maine Legislature, Governor and judges in Maine’s courts. The recommendations are sure to prompt debate in the current political environment, with emotions high over impeachment of President Donald Trump and one-party control in Maine’s capitol.

The panel, known as the State Compensation Commission, met six times to review the salaries of elected officials and has posted a draft report on the group’s website making the recommendations. The group will meet to present their findings on Monday, December 16, 2019.

Among the findings of the report are that the Governor of the state of Maine is the lowest paid Governor in the nation at $70,000 per year. The Commission says that salary has not changed since 1987. The Governor also receives a $30,000 per year expense account. That amount has not changed since 1999.

The recommendation from the Commission is to increase the salary of Governor to $130,000 per year. That is an increase of $60,000 per year, or almost 86%. The report also recommends increasing the Governor’s expense account from $30,000 to $50,000 per year.

The median household income in Maine, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was about $55,600 in 2018.

Under the report’s recommendation, the pay increase provided to Maine’s Governor would be more than the median Maine household earns in a year, and the combined total salary and expense account provided to the Governor would be more than triple the median household income.

Other elected officials would also see a raise under the report’s recommendations. State Legislators would see their two-year salary increase from $25,444 to $32,000. The report reasons that although the job of state legislator is not a full-time position, the salary should at least equal one year of Maine’s per capita income for a two-year period of work.

The Commission will also recommend increasing the mileage rate legislators are reimbursed from 44 cents per mile to the federal mileage reimbursement rate or 58 cents per mile, whichever is lower. It also recommends equalizing the “lodging rate” legislators can be reimbursed to match the mileage rate, so neither staying in Augusta nor commuting to and from Augusta is incentivized.

The report says judges across Maine should also make more.

It recommends judges see salary increases that move Maine into 35th place nationally for pay. Currently Maine ranks 51st, the report says.

District Court and Superior Court judges would receive salaries of $150,000 per year. Supreme Court Justices would make $169,000 per year and the Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court would receive $184,00 per year.

The Commission says the salary increase for judges will help recruit more qualified individuals willing to serve and that an independent judiciary is critical to a “well-functioning democracy.”

The Maine Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee may introduce legislation to implement their recommendations, but any change would require approval by the legislature and the support of the Governor.

The Compensation Commission is made up of five members, two appointed by Senate President Troy Jackson, two appointed by Speaker Sara Gideon, and one agreed upon by the four members of the panel.

You can visit the official State Compensation Commission website at maine.gov by clicking here.

Article V of the Maine Constitution forbids a sitting Governor from receiving a pay raise during their “continuance in office.” Members of the Maine House and Senate may not receive the pay raises during the legislature that enacts the pay raises, but may receive them in the following legislature if they are re-elected.

Article VI of the Maine Constitution similarly forbids sitting Justices of the Maine Supreme Court from receiving a pay raise during their “continuance in office.”

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