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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Panel freezes salaries

By Richard Roesler

OLYMPIA – Perhaps not surprisingly, the citizens panel that sets salaries for lawmakers, the governor, many judges and other state-paid officials has voted not to give any of them raises for the next two years.

“The commission regrets the need to take this action,” the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials said recently, announcing the decision.

At hearings back in January, politician after politician (or their surrogates) stepped up to the mic and said that while they work hard, they didn’t want a raise at a time when the state faced a multibillion-dollar shortfall.

One exception: newly elected state school Superintendent Randy Dorn. He stopped short of explicitly calling for more money. But he strongly hinted that the $121,618 salary isn’t enough to keep attracting top talent to the public position.

By comparison, he said, 121 of the school superintendents across Washington are paid more than he is. The top 20 or so make $200,000 or more, he said. The former head of a union representing public school support staff, Dorn said he took a $25,000 pay cut to become state schools superintendent. He knew that when he ran for the job, he said. But he also suggested that the salary wouldn’t attract top-tier candidates in the future.

“How do you get quality people into the position? I think you’re going to have to make it more attractive than it is,” he told the commission.

That’s a point that apparently was not lost on the commissioners, some of whom are concerned that the salaries aren’t staying high enough to draw good judges.

“Future commissions will consider the long-term needs of the state and will make continuing salary adjustments to be competitive and attract citizens of the highest quality to public service,” the group said.

Here are what the salaries are today. They’re frozen through the summer of 2011.

Executive branch

•Governor, $166,891

•Lieutenant governor, $93,948

•Secretary of state, $116,950

•Treasurer, $116,950

•Auditor, $116,950

•Attorney general, $151,718

•Insurance commissioner, $116,950

•Superintendent of public instruction, $121,618

•Commissioner of public lands, $121,618

Judicial branch

•Supreme Court justices, $164,221

•Court of Appeals judges, $156,328

•Superior Court judges, $148,832

•District Court judges, $141,710

Legislative branch

•Legislator, $42,106

•Speaker of the House, $50,106

•Senate majority leader, $50,106

•House minority leader, $46,106

•Senate minority leader, $46,106

Speaking of state salaries

In a study of more than 360 metropolitan areas by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, Olympia was rated sixth-highest in the nation for salary growth. Pay there rose an average of 22 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to the magazine. Median household income in Olympia is now more than $55,000 a year.

From the magazine:

“Mischaracterized sometimes as a sleepy government town, Washington’s state capital enjoys a thriving visual and performing-arts scene. But its state government continues to be the keystone of the city’s economy; it employs about half of the city’s workforce. Education is another big driver of the city’s growth and character.”

And Spokane? Pretty far down the list, with income growth of 6.5 percent and median household income of $44,694.

The good news for the Inland Northwest is that it’s markedly cheaper to live in Spokane. Kiplinger’s cost-of-living index ranks Spokane at 91 percent of the average cost of living nationwide, putting it on par with places like Boise, Colorado Springs and Fargo, N.D. Olympia is at 105 percent.

Your car knows

As cars become more sophisticated, their on-board computers are gathering more and more information about you. Privacy advocates, including the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, recently got a law passed to limit disclosure of that data.

“You shouldn’t have to give up your privacy when you’re traveling in a car,” said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington.

Cars increasingly have aircraft-style “event data recorders” that record 5-90 seconds worth of data before and after a crash. The devices record things like speed, steering, braking, whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt, which direction the car was facing and its location. In many cases, the data feeds an emergency help system, like OnStar.

Until now, Washington had no law regulating such devices.

It does now. Senate Bill 5574, recently signed into law, says that such devices must be disclosed to buyers. The data can only be turned over in certain situations, such as a court order, emergency response or for anonymous vehicle-safety research.

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or at richr@spokesman.com. For more news from Olympia, please see www.eyeonolympia.com.

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