Is there an appetite in Lansing for a pay raise?
Top state officials haven’t had a pay raise since 2002, and most of them took a 10% pay cut a few years ago, as Michigan was beginning to struggle back from the recession.
Now, however, unemployment is at its lowest level in 14 years and state revenues are growing. Is this new economic situation fostering an appetite in Lansing for a pay raise?
The State Officers Compensation Committee is the panel charged with deciding whether state officials – the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state lawmakers and justices of the Supreme Court – should get a raise.
In effect, in addition to the state officials listed above, the committee deals with the salaries of the whole judiciary system, as “judges’ salaries are tie-bared to the justices’ salaries,” Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan said.
After the committee makes its recommendation, both chambers of the Legislature will vote to approve or deny pay recommended pay increases.
However, according to Egan, this process is different from the process used in the past.
“The way it always used to work – and this is how they ended up getting fairly significant pay hikes in 2000 and 2002 – was that once the commission reported, unless the Legislature voted to reject the recommendation, it would automatically come into effect,” Egan said.
Because the public was unhappy with the pay hikes in 2000 and 2002, Michigan amended its constitution in 2002, shortly after the backlash, creating the process being used today.
This new process is one reason state officials have not seen a pay increase in over ten years. Another reason is the poor shape of the economy. A further reason?
“A lot of times politicians are reluctant to vote themselves a pay hike,” Egan said.
However, Egan was sure to note that if politicians did vote for a pay hike, the pay change would take effect only in the next two-year cycle.
So the question remains: is there an appetite for pay raises in Lansing?
“Probably not for most officials,” Egan said.
The State Officers Compensation Committee notified state officials prior to the first meeting, and not one official appeared to state a want of a raise.
“And the chairman said that he interpreted that to mean that there may be a contentment with the status quo,” Egan said.
However, judges whose salaries are also determined by the committee were not informed of the meeting.
“And I do expect you’ll hear some representations from judges' associations, likely at the next meeting, because that’s been the main concern,” Egan said.