Cabinet Pay Raises: The Point is They Didn’t Get Them
The ProJo gleefully reports (gotcha guv!) that Governor Carcieri asked for raises for his cabinet officers.
Two weeks before he first wielded his now-famous vow to eliminate 1,000 state jobs to head off a looming deficit, Governor Carcieri quietly sought four years of cumulative raises — ranging as high as $24,884 — for members of his cabinet.
Ah yes, “quietly” (ie; “sneakily”) sought the raises. Reporter Katherine Gregg seems to be parroting the Democratic line:
House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino, D-Providence, called the request “one of the more unusual I have ever seen, particularly in light of a major, major budget deficit.… It was absolutely the wrong message you wanted to send in terms of the budget…. You’d have to ask him his motivation: why are you coming to us when you can do this yourself?”
“I think many of us thought he was looking for cover and didn’t want to actually go through the public hearing process,” Costantino said.
The Governor’s spokesman refuted that speculation:
Denying the governor was driven by either motivation, Neal said Carcieri simply wanted to “regularize” the process for awarding raises, and “at the time, believed these increases would be affordable.” He said “the governor’s perspective” on the state’s fiscal situation changed dramatically two weeks later when an “unacceptable” version of the spending plan he proposed started moving through the Assembly.
It’s obvious which set of talking points Gregg chose to follow. But enough about the by-now-predictable “gotcha” tone of Gregg’s reporting on the Governor.
Let’s get the facts straight. Several of the Governor’s cabinet officers have not received raises since 2002 (even though the raises have been budgeted in for some positions, at least according to what I found while researching the DCYF budget). The Legislature and Governor have also agreed that non-union State workers should get the same 4% raises as unionized workers. Additionally:
[T]he General Assembly in June 2005 created a new procedure that requires the Department of Administration to conduct a public hearing in March each year to set directors’ salaries. It requires the administration to take into consideration the “salaries paid executive positions in other states and levels of government, and in comparable positions anywhere which require similar skills, experience, or training.” At the end of this process, the Department of Administration is required to make a recommendation to the Assembly by the end of April, to take effect automatically unless rejected by the House and Senate within 30 days.
It looks like the Legislature has nixed or left on the table most cabinet position raises year after year. The May memo sought to redress this “oversight” and to make the budgetary process more predictable by providing for automatic pay increases for these positions. I can appreciate that motivation, but there’s a point worth making here: in the end, the executive raises weren’t kept in the budget because they couldn’t be afforded.
Can the same be said for the raises for the rest of the state workforce? Of course not. Their salaries and benefits were collectively bargained and are guaranteed, no matter how dire the State’s fiscal situation. I don’t begrudge them the raises, those are the rules and they negotiated them fair and square. But it doesn’t mean that such lack of flexibility (management rights) isn’t a problem.
I don’t shed a tear for government executives making six figures not getting retroactive pay raises. Heck, I’d say we should eliminate some of those positions if we can! But most of all, I think it’s to the State’s benefit that we can freeze their salaries if the financial situation calls for it. If only we could do the same across the board.