Oregon state Capitol
SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-One of Oregon's leading taxpayer rights advocates balked Wednesday at a proposal to give the state's next attorney general a 54 percent raise, saying office holders ought to get modest salary increases as most workers do.
The Public Officials Compensation Commission earlier this month called on state lawmakers to give Oregon's next attorney general a 54 percent raise above the current salary of $77,200 to help bring the post's salary in line with other states.
Jason Williams, executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, said with a tepid economy and many Oregonians struggling to make ends meet, now is not the time to give the Beaver State's next chief legal officer a big raise, even if a salary increase is in order.
"That is a huge raise to get all at once. I would be open to a more modest and incremental increase for the attorney general," Williams told Legal Newsline. "When the average taxpayer family gets a raise it is small. I don't know anyone who has ever received at 54 percent raise."
A recent Legal Newsline survey found that Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, a Democrat, is the second lowest paid AG in the nation. Only Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel earns less, at $70,000 a year.
With the proposed $41,688 raise, the attorney general's $118,888 salary would rank the 22nd highest. The next attorney general would be paid more than the AGs in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Utah, among others.
But if lawmakers follow the recommendation and give the Oregon AG a raise, Williams said they risk damaging the already low opinion the public has of officials in the statehouse.
"It's just going to further alienate the public and show that the politicians run business on a different level playing field than the average worker does," he said. "Are they incapable of taking a small raise? They should follow the private sector model and make raises more modest and incremental."
As for the commission's recommendation that state judges ought to receive a 10 percent salary increase, Williams said that might be appropriate, noting that a 10 percent increase is a far cry from a 54 percent raise proposed for the next AG.
"The public may be very welcome to bring judges up to level," he said.
In 2007, the Legislature gave those on the bench a 16 percent raise. The proposed increase would boost judges' salaries to $132,000 a year.
The 11-member panel also called for raises for state lawmakers, who currently earn $19,884 a year. Proponents of the raise say the low pay for Oregon legislators discourages potential candidates from running for the House or Senate.
"Politicians don't deserve any raises because all they been doing is raising our taxes," he said, noting that state lawmakers grew state government 20 percent in the current biennium. "If they could actually balance the budget without punishing us then they might be worth it, but they don't."
The commissioners will hold a public hearing Sept. 18 to discuss the proposed pay increases. The commission will then meet Oct. 1 to make its final recommendations to the Legislature.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.