State lawmakers set to receive first pay raise in over a decade

The raise would be the first in a decade for some elected officials, but not all lawmakers are happy with the process, proposed raises or both.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 9:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After a decade of a pay freeze, state lawmakers in Alaska might be receiving a significant pay increase.

The proposed salary raise won’t apply to all state of Alaska employees, but only to some elected officials including the Legislature and the governor. That is unless the Legislature holds a vote to override the veto and passes measures with their own suggestions.

During a 15-minute meeting last week, the Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission said “yes” to a sizeable pay increase for state legislators — nearly a $30,000 boost — bringing their pay to $84,000. This will be the first pay raise state lawmakers have received since 2010.

An independent, nonpartisan commission determines legislators’ salaries, and their latest proposal didn’t include a pay raise for lawmakers.

They were replaced with new members after some opted to resign and others were removed.

The new members quickly voted for substantial raises for lawmakers. However, the situation gets complicated as the Legislature voted against the previous recommendation that did not grant lawmakers a raise. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed the Legislature’s decision, which effectively cleared the way for the new plan for lawmakers to get pay raises.

Now, to stop the pay raises, the Legislature would have to hold a vote to override the veto, but it’s unclear if that will happen, according to Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) who reported he’s consulted legal advice.

“Their advice was the best approach if the Legislature truly wants to, or if the House wants to override this salary commission report was for them file a piece of legislation, and run it through the process, and have that enacted into law,” Wielechowski said.

Dunleavy earlier this week vetoed recommendations from the previous members of the State Salary Commission, who had said “no” to a pay raise for lawmakers.

The governor’s pay will increase to about $176,000 per year, up from the current $145,000.

“Governor Dunleavy did not run for Governor for the paycheck, and neither will the Governor who succeeds him. But even the Governor of Alaska needs to earn a living, and the salary adjustment is the first for the Governor since 2011,” said Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner in a statement.

House speaker Cathy Tilton reportedly supports holding a vote, but Senate President Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) disagrees.

“I do not think the veto should be overridden,” Stevens said. “I think the governor had stepped forward and worked hard to try to solve an issue that has been facing us for the past 10 years.”

Dunleavy spoke on the issue at a press conference Tuesday.

“It’s always going to be a politically charged discussion,” Dunleavy said.

He cautioned those against the suggested raises made running for office and spending time working in the Legislature in Juneau financially prohibitive for everyday Alaskans, opening the door for an “aristocracy, where only those with incredible wealth can afford to spend time in Juneau.”