An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation that published over the weekend found that a drove of top state officials got hefty pay raises – some as high as 35 percent – despite efforts to rein in state spending. That means there are now a raft of state officials, including several in the governor’s office, who make more cash than Gov. Nathan Deal.
One proposal making the rounds in the Legislature would involve a citizen’s commission to evaluate the pay and possibly recommend raises for Deal, whose salary of $139,339 is set by the Legislature, and other statewide constitutional officers in 2019. The idea has some powerful allies.
“It’s awkward. Someone up there (in the Legislature) needs to step up and take the initiative. Not for us, but for the next person. He’s underpaid for the job he has,” Deal chief of staff Chris Riley said. “Someone needs to look at it. Yes you get free housing, yes you get transportation. But it’s a 24/7 job.”
Deal’s state salary is in the middle range of gubernatorial pay, according to the Council of State Governments. Salaries range from $70,000 in Maine to the $190,000 that Pennsylvania’s top executive is paid. Several governors have taken voluntary pay cuts or refused any salary at all, including Florida’s Rick Scott and Alabama’s Robert Bentley.
Lawmakers have passed state laws in the past to limit some executive pay, such as a measure capping bonuses handed out by the Georgia Lottery. But some in Deal’s administration warned lawmakers against trying to rein in executive salary. Teresa MacCartney, the head of Deal’s budget planning office, said doing so would hobble state government.
“It’s all about recruiting the best people to run state agencies,” she said. “And if you can’t attract the top talent, you can’t find the right people to run a billion-dollar department.”