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2018 State Legislature: Governor: No pay raises for statewide elected officials

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By Steve Terrell

The New Mexican

While the state House of Representatives recently passed a budget that would give most state employees a 2 percent raise, the state Senate on a bi-partisan vote Friday moved to give the next governor, lieutenant governor and other elected state officials a 10 percent raise.

But only minutes after the vote a spokesman for the current governor, Susana Martinez, basically said Senate Bill 176, sponsored by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, is dead in the water.

"This bill doles out raises for politicians and costs $67,000," spokesman Larry Behrens said in a tweet. "That money should go to our police and corrections officers. This bill will be vetoed."

Smith told senators that statewide elected officials have not received a pay raise since 2002. He noted that the chiefs of staff and other top deputies of various state officials make significantly more than their elected bosses.

"The state treasurer makes about $50,000 less than his deputy treasurer," Smith said. In the Governor's Office, Martinez's chief of staff Keith Gardner is paid more than $36,000 more than Martinez.

The bill would raise the governor's salary to $121,000 from $110,000. The current $95,000 salary of the state attorney would rise to $104,500. The salaries of the state land commissioner and the five Public Regulation Commission members would go to $99,000 from $90,000, while the secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor and lieutenant governor would be increased to $93,500 from $85,000.

The Senate's two top Republicans, Minority Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales and Minority Whip Bill Payne, spoke in favor of the raises. Ingle noted that university presidents are paid significantly more than the governor. Payne said that except for the governor, none of New Mexico's state officials make more than the base pay of a major in the Army.

But Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, noted that the state's medium income is far less than any of the state officials' salaries. "I'm not sure that raising executive salaries helps that," he said. He also said he would have a hard time backing the bill while state employees would receive a far smaller raise.

Voting against the bill were seven Republican senators – Brandt, Sander Rue and Mark Moores of Albuquerque, Bill Sharer of Farmington, Pat Woods of Broadview, Cliff Pirtle of Roswell and Greg Baca of Belen – and two Democrats – Bill O'Neill of Albuquerque and John Sapien of Corrales.

Three senators who are running for statewide office abstained from the vote on Smith's bill. These were Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who is running for governor, Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who is running for lieutenant governor, and George Muñoz, who is running for land commissioner.

The bill now goes to the House.

The House in late January passed a budget that calls for 2 percent pay raises for most state employees. Teachers, state police, prosecutors and public defenders would get bigger raises.

Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexica­n.com. Read his blog at www.santafenewmexican.com/roundhouse_roundup.