A state panel recommended salary hikes Friday for Michigan's governor and other statewide officials, urging legislators to restore the pay and expense allowances they sliced by 10 percent more than six years ago.
The six-member State Officers Compensation Commission voted unanimously to recommend the compensation increases, which would become effective in 2019 if the Republican-led Legislature affirmatively acts — an unlikely move. It is the first time the panel, which meets every other year, has urged pay hikes for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state since it recommended the 10 percent reduction in 2009 during the height of the economic downturn.
The recommendation Friday excludes legislators, who would have been highly unlikely to OK their own raise regardless. They have rejected the commission's suggested modest 3 percent pay raises for Supreme Court justices in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
This year, the panel is recommending a 10 percent boost for justices, which would be their first increase since 2002. They make $164,610 annually. The governor's salary is $159,300, the lieutenant governor's is $111,510, and the attorney general and secretary of state earn $112,410.
Commission member James Hallan, president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, said compensation should be boosted to attract qualified candidates but acknowledged the "political reality" of lawmakers not wanting to vote on pay hikes.
"Legislative inaction ... has created a significant benchmark variance especially for those that hold statewide office," he said. "We've created a logjam that needs to be broken."
The commission chairman, Joseph Stalley, the president of an investment firm, said the economy has improved significantly since the 10 percent cut. Personal income is up 25 percent, and wages for state workers have risen by a third over 15 years.
The only person to testify at the meeting was Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Markman, who said a 17-year pay freeze on justices' salaries will be the longest in the country. It "has had adverse consequences for the stability of the court and for the attractiveness of service on the court," he said.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder cannot run again due to term limits and would not benefit from the pay hike if one is authorized. He said restoring previous salary levels to where they were before 2011 — when the cut took effect — "doesn't appear unreasonable to me."
After speaking at a recycling summit in East Lansing, he told reporters: "We want to have the best courts possible, so I think it's important that we compensate people accordingly."
Rank-and-file legislators make $71,685 a year and receive another $10,800 in expense allowances. Those in leadership positions make more.