A bill to raise the salaries of elected officials in Colorado was introduced in the Senate on Thursday, in the final days of the state’s annual legislative session.
The proposal had been discussed for months, but people working on the measure said state lawmakers in both parties wanted to make sure there were enough votes for it to clear the legislature before allowing an introduction. This late in the session, a legislative leader must approve a bill before it can be introduced.
Statewide elected officials in Colorado have not received a raise since 1998. According to the Council of State Governments, the state’s governor ranks 47th in the country in terms of salary, ahead of Arkansas and Maine. He earns $90,000 each year. The average gubernatorial salary is $133,000.
“It’s only fair that the Governor of the state of Colorado make more than $90,000 a year,” said Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) a main sponsor of Senate bill 288. “That’s a terrible salary for someone who does the kind of work he has to do.”
The proposal would include raises for the five statewide elected officials: Treasurer, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lt. Governor, and Governor. It allows counties to raise the salaries of their local officials, and increases pay for members of the General Assembly.
While there have been discussions for years on raising salaries for legislators and elected officials, it’s always a tricky topic for politicians to debate pay raises for themselves. Supporters said it’s best to do it in a non-election year, and lawmakers also want to protect vulnerable legislators from voting for pay raises. Lawmakers at the statehouse currently earn $30,000.
“I’ve had people say I can vote for everything but my own salary,” said Hodge. “But they will have to if they vote for this. So I don’t know what that portends for the bill.” Hodge said under the bill state lawmakers would make $38,000 each year. Hodge believes that’s reasonable given the hours they work.
“[People] talk about us working 120 days, but it’s really much more than that. We do interim committees, we do outreach in our communities. I think it’s time we get a raise,” said Hodge.
The pay raises would not apply to any official in the middle of a term because they wouldn’t go into effect until 2019. For instance, Governor John Hickenlooper who is term limited would not receive a raise even if the bill passes.
There is bi-partisan support. Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) and Representative Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) are main sponsors, along with Representative Millie Hamner (D- Dillon).
“From what I’ve seen, our elected officials deserve a raise,” said Representative Rankin (R-Carbondale). Rankin said he represents rural counties and was especially motivated by his desire to try and give those elected officials a raise.
“They are very independent thinking organizations and we need to give them a lot of freedom to run their own business,” said Rankin.
The last raise for county-level officials was in 2006. Local leaders said it makes it hard to recruit the most qualified candidates. Any proposal will need to be fast-tracked with only a few day left in the annual legislative session. It takes a minimum of three days for a bill to pass. The session ends May 6, 2015.
|Current Salary||Comparable||% Comp||New Salary||% Increase|
|Governor||$90,000||$176,799 (SC – Chief justice)||66%||$116,687||29.7%|
|Lt. Gov||$68,500||$152,466 (County court judge)||58%||$88,430||29%|
|Atty. Gen||$80,000||$169,997 (Ct. of Appeals)||60%||$101,998||27.5%|
|Sec. State||$68,500||$152,466 (County court judge)||58%||$88,430||29%|
|Treasurer||$68,500||$152,466 (County court judge)||58%||$88,430||29%|
|GA||$30,000||$152,466 (County court judge)||25%||$38,117||27%|