Harper pushing salaries raise for elected officials - Your West Valley News: Topstory

Harper pushing salaries raise for elected officials

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Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:15 am

PHOENIX -- Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, who is quitting at the end of his term is pushing a measure to raise the salaries paid to those who hold statewide elective office -- including one he would like to hold.

Harper said Tuesday his main goal is to have the governor earn as much as currently paid to the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. That would put the salary at $160,000 a year, up from $95,000.

But HB 2078 also would mean increases in pay for other state officials. That includes a proposal to have the secretary of state paid $95,000, a $25,000 increase.

It also comes as Harper admitted he already has formed an exploratory committee for the 2014 statewide election for secretary of state.

Harper said, though, there is nothing nefarious about his proposal.

He pointed out that the normal procedure in state law is for a five-member commission to make recommendations to the Legislature. Those recommendations become effective unless specifically rejected or altered by lawmakers.

Only thing is, that commission has not met in years. That's because Gov. Jan Brewer has not filled the two vacancies for which she is responsible.

And that, as it turns out, was by design.

A Brewer press aide said in 2010 that, given the state's current finances, no elected official deserves a raise. And the way to stop that was thwarting the work of the salary commission.

Matthew Benson, the governor's current spokesman, declined to say Tuesday if she will now let the commission restart its work.

Harper, however, has found a way around that. His legislation directs that the salaries be set to a specific level, regardless of the laws that first require a recommendation by the commission.

He acknowledged that regular state workers have not received a raise in years. In fact, this past year, lawmakers actually took away some take-home pay by increasing the share of what has to be paid into the pension plan.

Harper said, though, as the state's economy improves, he would expect some discussion of employee pay. But he wants that linked to some types of personnel reform to remove some of the worker rights to appeal disciplinary actions, rights he said that do not exist in the private sector.

Harper said he has not made a final decision about running for secretary of state. He said he formed the exploratory committee because he had money left over in his legislative fundraising account and now, with no future runs on the horizon, it was necessary to put that cash elsewhere.

Still, he conceded, the interest is there.

"It's an unfulfilled goal to be the secretary of state,'' Harper said.

Nothing in his legislation would affect the salaries of lawmakers. That same commission -- when it gets to meet -- makes recommendations for their pay, too. But those recommendations are subject to voter ratification.

Elected official pay:

Office                                               Current           HB 2078

Governor                                          $95,000           $160,000

Secretary of state                             $70,000            $95,000

Attorney general                               $90,000            $99,000

Treasurer                                           $70,000            $95,000

School superintendent                      $85,000             $95,000

Mine inspector                                   $50,000             $50,000

Corporation commissioner                 $79,500             $85,000

Supreme Court chief justice            $160,000            $160,000

Other Supreme Court justices         $155,000            $155,000

Appellate judges                             $150,000            $150,000

Superior Court judges                     $145,000            $145,000

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