It’s been 13 years since Arizona’s governor has gotten a raise.
And its current office-holder thinks the time may have come to give her successor a raise.
“You get into public service because of public service,” Jan Brewer said. “So, it’s not about the money.”
But Brewer told Capitol Media Services that, perhaps, the current $95,000 figure does not adequately compensate the state’s chief executive.
“The job is very, very difficult,” she said. “Moving forward, I wouldn’t have a problem with governors making more money. Arizona is at the low end of the pay scale for governors.”
The Council of State Governments reports that as of 2010, the most recent figures available, only four states paid their governors less.
But even that does not paint a complete picture: Each of those four states provides its chief executive with an official residence as part of the compensation package, whether paid for by taxpayers or special foundations. In fact, most states have such a house.
Brewer, like most of her predecessors, lives in her own house, at her own expense.
The governor said she expects the issue to come up when the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers meets this summer.
Under state law, the commission meets every two years to come up with recommendations of what they believe are appropriate salaries.
Proposals for the salaries of lawmakers go directly to the voters. But the compensation for everyone else is forwarded to the governor who gets to decide how much of that — if any — to include in her budget recommendation to the Legislature.
At that point, lawmakers can alter or reject those numbers. But there’s an interesting provision in the law: If legislators do not act within 90 days, the governor’s recommendations take effect after the next election.
That means Brewer, constitutionally limited from seeking reelection in 2014, would not benefit from anything she suggests.
The salary commission has made recommendations for raises almost every other year since the 1998 action hiking the salary from $75,000, where it had been since 1987. But those recommendations were thwarted, first by legislators vetoing recommendations and, later, when Gov. Janet Napolitano refused to include pay hikes in her budget recommendations.
And two years ago Brewer blocked the commission from even meeting to consider higher pay for any state official by refusing to appoint her two members of the five-person commission.
The chances of a pay hike for the next governor is decidedly more likely than the chance Brewer’s successor will get a home owned by the state.
Arizona never had a governor’s home until 1975, when Raul Castro became governor.
“All the governors up until that time had been from Phoenix,” Castro explained several years ago. The Tucson resident said that when campaigning, and when elected, he lived in a motel in midtown Phoenix.
“It’s pretty hard for a governor to be operating from a hotel,” Castro quipped.
Tom Chauncey, former owner of a Valley TV station, donated a home he owned in Paradise Valley.
The state sold the home after Castro resigned to become ambassador to Argentina. Neither Wes Bolin, who became governor on his resignation, nor his successor, Bruce Babbitt, who took over when Bolin died in office less than a year later, wanted the house since both already had Phoenix homes.
The governor’s $95,000 salary also means she is paid less than most of the state agency directors she supervises.
For example, Tom Betlach, director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, makes exactly twice as much. Others making more include John Greene, head of the Department of Revenue, with a $145,000 salary, state Health Director Will Humble and state Gaming Director Mark Brnovich, both of whom earn $136,000, with $135,000 salaries for the heads of the state’s environmental quality and housing departments.
And, as it turns out, others working even within her office make more, led by Eileen Klein who makes $165,000 as chief of staff.