The governor and other statewide elected officials are getting big raises on July 1st. The Legislature has voted to raise Governor Tom Vilsack’s pay by 21 percent, to an annual salary of 130-thousand dollars. “That’s a pretty hefty increase,” Vilsack told reporters when asked about the issue. “I can tell you I will probably substantially increase the charitable contributions and try to make sure that I use that resource to further…my church, some things back home in Mt. Pleasant.” Other statewide elected officials like the Attorney General will get a pay hike of about 17 percent. Vilsack says you can make a case for that increase. Vilsack says Iowa’s Treasurer deals with billions of dollars, but is “woefully underpaid” when compared to what a comptroller would make in the private sector. The Lieutenant Governor’s pay will go up the most — by 34 percent. Legislators also voted to raise their own pay, but they’ll have to stand for re-election before the 16-point-nine percent pay hike would take effect in January, 2007. Vilsack says it’s easy to bash legislators for raising their pay, but he says they’re worth it. “This is a reasonable step and I support it,” Vilsack says. Vilsack, who used to be a state Senator, says being a legislator is a very stressful job. “For the most part, they’re hard-workin’ and they care deeply about the state and if we want to attract quality people to consider running for office and put up with the nonsense of campaigns…there has to be some financial reward,” Vilsack says. The salary package for elected officials is included in a bill that also provides money to meet state worker pay raises. That bill cleared the House last week and the Senate Thursday. Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, was the only senator to speak out against the pay raise for elected officials. “We’ve done a very bad job of budgeting the last couple of years and especially this year,” Brunkhorst says. “It’s frustrating that…some of us think that we need a pay raise.” Brunkhorst tried unsuccessfully to trigger the pay raise only if the state’s cash reserve and “rainy day” fund are full. “I think the pay raise, if we’re doing the job, is probably o-k,” Brunkhorst says. “The amount doesn’t frustrate me as much but the lack of it being fiscally responsible really frustrates me, and that’s why we don’t deserve it quite yet.” Brunkhorst says it’s time to tie legislators’ pay with performance on fiscal matters. Brunkhorst believes the spending decisions lawmakers are making this year will force the Legislature to vote to raise taxes next year. “Politicians don’t like to say ‘No,'” Brunkhorst says.
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