Alaska Legislature votes down raises for governor and other top officials

Gary Stevens and Cathy Tilton
Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, and Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, talk before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Legislature has voted unanimously to block raises for the state’s governor, lieutenant governor and the commissioners in charge of state departments.

The state House voted 40-0 Monday evening to approve Senate Bill 86, which blocks the raises from coming into effect. The Senate approved the bill 19-0 (Sen. Robb Myers, R-North Pole, was excused absent) on Feb. 27. 

Once transmitted to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the governor will have until March 23 to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The bill was introduced by members of the state Senate after the State Officers Compensation Commission — charged by law with setting the salaries of the state’s top elected and non-elected officials — proposed raises for the top members of the executive branch. 

Those raises were intended to represent adjustments for inflation, but leading legislators suggested the raises were inappropriate and introduced legislation to block them. 

The compensation commission failed to suggest changes to legislative pay, suggesting further analysis is needed. In addition, the Alaska Department of Administration has proposed a statewide analysis of all state salaries.

In a news conference last month, Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said the salary commission has failed to address compensation issues and that state salaries for top positions are too low.

On Monday, he said he is drafting legislation to manually adjust the salaries of legislators and top executive branch officials.

“The reality is, we need to fairly compensate people or they’re just not going to leave a job that pays them well to come to serve the state,” he said. 

Prior Beacon reporting that showed the governor is paid less than 861 other state employees.

Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said that even if the Senate passes a salary bill, the House could see issues differently.

“I think there’s some difference of opinion on that,” Tilton said when asked what comes next.

She said her caucus hasn’t come up with a unified position on salary changes.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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