MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is giving members of his Cabinet a big payday: They’re getting double-digit raises totalling tens of thousands of dollars.
It’s raising eyebrows with lawmakers, but the Democratic governor is adamant. He says it’s the price of good government.
“In state government we need to keep and attract the best talented people,” said Dayton, who is just beginning his second term in office. “People who have families with children in college and the like. It’s essential to pay them closer to what they are worth.”
Dayton said any member of his cabinet could earn ten times their salary in the private sector and double what they make now by working for the University of Minnesota or the City of Minneapolis.
“Minnesotans need to understand we have a good government overall,” he said. “We have some exceptional people who make it a very good government.”
The pay hikes range from 19 percent to 58 percent.
The smallest raise is $22,407 to the Ombudsman for Mental Health, bumping the salary from $97,510 to $119,997.
Top commissioners got 30 percent raises, boosting their salaries by $35,000, from $119,997 to $154,992.
And the chair of the Metropolitan Council got an $84,000 raise: from a part-time job at $61,414 to full time at $144,991.
“I think it’s outrageous,” said freshman Republican State Rep. Roz Peterson.
Minnesota lawmakers were notified of the raises 30 days after they went into effect.
Peterson said the pay hikes are too much, especially with the state coming out of a long recession.
“There are many people who would love to have a $35,000 salary increase,” Peterson said. “But these are people who are public servants, and I think it’s a little inappropriate at this time to do those kinds of jumps.”
Dayton said commissioner salaries have not been raised in ten years because of budget and political difficulties.
He says state lawmakers, who haven’t had a raise since 1998, also need a pay hike.
And because he’s not running for re-election, Dayton said he’s not concerned about the political consequences.
“We’re not going to do this every year,” he said. “I dont think we need to do this again for another decade, or longer. To delay that process so I can cover my political behind is not my idea of responsibility in leadership.”