Georgia State Capitol

Georgia panel recommends pay hikes for lawmakers, state officials

State lawmakers would receive $12,000 raises in 2019 under a proposal by a compensation committee that is also recommending that statewide elected officials and the House speaker see their pay bumped up by $20,000 to $43,000.

The panel, which was included in House Bill 202 that will raise the governor’s pay to $175,000 from the current $139,000 in 2019, compared statehouse salaries with those in Georgia county courthouses as well as states across the country.

The report showed Georgia’s salaries were above average in some areas (secretary of state), in the middle for lawmakers and lieutenant governors, and low for attorneys general.

State lawmakers have long complained about the base salary of $17,342, and they have often used it as a reason they quit. Many wind up lobbying their former colleagues, making 10 or 20 times what they earned making laws.

But passing pay raises is always tricky political business, and it will be in 2018 because it is an election year. Lawmakers face re-election contests for their seats. Others are running for higher office.

Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose offices would see big raises, are running for governor. So is state Sen. Michael Williams. Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, is running to replace Cagle.

Shafer said the General Assembly has more important issues, such as raising pay for local police.

“I am not interested in taking a pay raise until we figure out how to adequately compensate our law enforcement officers,” Shafer said.

The compensation committee was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. It was headed by Ryan Teague, the governor’s former legal counsel, and it included Marshall Guest, a lobbyist for the Atlanta Metro Chamber and former press aide to Ralston, executives for Georgia Power and Coca-Cola, and former lawmakers JaNice Van Ness and Barbara Sims.

A similar panel recommended big raises for judges last year, but the General Assembly didn’t go along with its proposal.

The latest compensation committee recommended that legislative pay rise to $29,908. The lieutenant governor, who serves as president of the Senate, would be paid $135,000, rather than the current $91,000.

Ralston is not running for higher office. He, or whoever is speaker in 2019, would see the pay jump from $99,000 to $135,000. Probably just as importantly, the panel recommended the person holding the post be allowed to receive a pension from the State Retirement System.

Other statewide elected officials would receive raises of between about $20,000 and $26,000. The state attorney general’s salary, for instance, would rise from $139,000 to $165,611. The secretary of state’s pay would go to $147,128 from $123,637.

The panel said if benefits are included, the jobs are already worth more than $200,000 to statewide elected officials.

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