State panel recommends Utah governor get 36.5% pay raise

Published: Monday, Dec. 3 2012 9:08 p.m. MST

Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert and other statewide elected officials would get hefty raises if the Utah Legislature heeds the findings in a new state report.

The Utah Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission recommended the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor receive 36.5 percent salary increases.

The raise would push Herbert's annual pay to $150,000, while the four other officeholders would be bumped to $142,500 a year.

"I think that it is probably the time to make this change," said commission vice chairman David Bird. "The numbers are appropriate."

Herbert was just elected to his first four-year term and the attorney general and auditor are newly elected, Bird said. In addition, he said "the economy seems to be turning around."

"Our concern was that the salaries ought to be at a level where you didn't have to be independently wealthy to seek the jobs," said Roger Tew, commission chairman.

The bipartisan six-member commission presented its report to the Executive Appropriations Committee, which doesn't take action on the recommendations. Any suggested raises must go to the full Legislature in the form of a bill.

Senate President-elect Wayne Niederhauser said the commission should have addressed the raises incrementally rather that in one big jump. "It seems to be a jump that will be a challenge I believe," the Sandy Republican said.

Niederhauser said it would be a tough sell politically as Utahns look at their own salaries and work to make ends meet.

"That big of an increase might be a problem for a lot of the constituents out there," he said.

Other than occasional cost-of-living adjustments, statewide elected officials have not received a raise for a decade. Tew said the panel arrived at the suggested increases unanimously.

"If there was any debate it was if we were recommending them too low," he said.

Should they receive the increase, it would be considered "full" compensation, according to the commission.

Bird said the commission heard from people who opposed the raise, arguing that elected officials have other sources of income.

"I think that's a very pernicious kind of perception out there," he said. "If the public believes that our elected officials are somehow or another paying their bills through something other than their job as the governor or auditor, then we start to lose the confidence that we have to have in elected officials."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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