Honolulu Civil Beat discusses big pay raises for lawmakers and top State Executives
The Hawaii Commission on Salaries was created by the Legislature in 2006 and makes recommendations every six years. This is one of those years.
Honolulu Civil Beat's Chad Blair: Robert, they finished there work yesterday, and they sent their recommendations to the governor and the Legislature. They call for pretty generous pay raises, especially for state legislators and for the governor and his Cabinet.
State judges and justices are also getting pay increases, but in smaller percentages than others.
Starting with judges, with the cost of living in Hawaii listed at 2-percent annually, they were expecting raises of 2.5-percent.
Commission Chair Mike Irish backed their position but it did not happen, what happened?
Chad Blair: The chief justice, Mark Recktenwald, was surprised to learn that the increase amounted to just half a percentage point. He argued that, after adjusting for cost of living, judges and justices could actually see a pay cut. He's worried about attracting and retaining the best judges.
A majority of the commission eventually agreed to a 1-percent raise for the judiciary. Their concern is that judicial salaries are already pretty hefty, starting at $193K for family and district court judges. Vice chair Rachael Wong said they want parity and fairness for all three branches.
Legislators earn 62,000 per year, they work four months per year with no term limits.
Chad Blair: Senators and representatives will see their pay grow to $74,000 by 2024. The House Speaker and Senate President will get another 9-grand above that. Recktenwald pointed out that legislators can hold down other jobs unlike judges. Judges must also retire at age 70, but they have a healthy retirement package. Governor Ige will see his salary grow by 4-percent on July 1 to $165,000. Six years from now it will be $189,000.
For top positions like attorney general, they will see a 5-percent increase this year. By 2024 it will be nearly as much as what the governor makes and equal to the lieutenant governor.
Some of the overlooked concerns could be pension, benefit liabilities for both state and city employees, and all fourteen public sector collective bargaining units are up for negotiations.
Chad Blair: That's the case every year, unless the economy is roaring. The state is doing okay, but the Legislature only has the option by state law to reject the whole salary package. That's unlikely, who would vote against increasing their own pay?