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State politicians to get raises

UPDATED: Wed., May 17, 2017, 9:20 p.m.

OLYMPIA – A citizen commission that sets elected officials’ salaries has voted to increase pay for Washington lawmakers by 2 percent annually for the next two years.

The salary commission voted to approve the raises Wednesday, the News Tribune reported.

Currently, a rank-and-file member of the state Legislature makes $46,839 per year. Those legislators’ annual salaries will increase to $47,776 in September, and to $48,731 in September 2018.

Lawmakers are currently in the midst of a 30-day special session after they were unable to approve a new two-year state budget during their regular 105-day session.

They haven’t been able to agree on a new two-year operating budget without going into overtime since 2009.

Several members of the salary commission said their role isn’t to consider performance or the decision-making of individual politicians when setting salaries. Instead, they said the independent commission considers factors including job responsibilities and the rising costs of inflation.

“We’re not a political body. It’s very hard to keep separate our duties because we’re charged with setting salaries for elected officials, but we are not political,” said commission member Melissa O’Neill Albert.

The salary commission also decided to award lower raises of 1 percent per year to statewide elected officials, including the governor and attorney general.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s annual salary will rise from $173,617 to $177,107 between now and September 2018, while Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib’s annual salary will increase from $101,889 to $103,937 during the same period.

Also receiving 1 percent raises each of the next two years: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and state Auditor Pat McCarthy.

Some commission members said they thought they shouldn’t give those better-paid elected officials – all of whom make over $100,000 per year – substantially more money when their job responsibilities hadn’t changed.

A few elected officials will receive higher raises because of added job duties, commission members said. Additionally, judges serving on the Supreme Court, the state’s appellate courts, district courts and superior courts will get a 2 percent salary increase this year and another 2 percent raise in 2018, which commission members said would bring them closer to making what federal court judges make.

In 2015, the commission gave legislators raises of 11 percent over two years to make up for not giving them raises for the previous eight. Raises for other elected officials ranged from more than 4 percent for the governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor to more than 12 percent for the state treasurer.



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