Political Insider

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Georgia's next governor could get a much bigger pay day

The next governor of Georgia is set to earn 25 percent more than Gov. Nathan Deal under a measure that cleared the state House this week.

House Bill 202 would set the state chief executive’s pay at $175,000, up from the $139,339 salary that the governor now earns. The pay hike wouldn't take effect until 2019, meaning a term-limited Deal wouldn't be eligible.

Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin reports several Democrats wondered why the measure, which passed Wednesday by a 141-22 vote, didn't include raises for lawmakers.

“I have no problem with raising the governor’s salary,” Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, said. “But have you had any consideration of raising our salary?”

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation published in January 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 Deal.

Among the supporters of the measure is Deal chief of staff Chris Riley, who in January called on lawmakers to "step up and take the initiative" in raising gubernatorial pay.

"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 adopted 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 cautioned 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.”

Read more about the pay raises – and the sharp responses from some lawmakers and watchdog groups – by clicking here.

Also: Georgia governor race: Who could be running in 2018

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.