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Eye On Olympia

The pay raise whose name shall not be spoken…

For obvious PR reasons, it’s hard for elected officials to tell the public that they (and, in fairness, their successors) deserve larger paychecks. Nonetheless, most of those who testified before the salary commission this week ended up – diplomatically — at that conclusion.

One of the exceptions was Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff, Tom Fitzsimmons. Sent to testify about the governor’s salary on behalf of Gregoire, Fitzsimmons noted how hard the governor works, the job responsibilities, how some of her subordinates are paid more than Gregoire, and so forth.

He went to great lengths, however, to avoid explicitly calling for a higher gubernatorial salary.

Here’s a fairly typical exchange with one of the commissioners, who asked a simple question: If the salaries of elected officials were higher, would the state get higher-caliber people in the Legislature and other posts?

Fitzsimmons paused.

“Not to appear evasive, but I will be evasive,” he said, speaking slowly. “Those are great questions. Just wonderful questions.”

“So what should we do?” the man asked.

“That,” Fitzsimmons responded, “is also a good question.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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