Governor Terry Branstad is opposed to tying salary increases for statewide elected officials like himself to the rate of inflation.

“I mean, I believe in openness and I believe in transparency and I believe putting it on auto-pilot where you have automatic increases that are tied to what the unions (for state employees) gets or what somebody else gets would be absolutely wrong,” Branstad says.

Salary hikes for statewide elected officials, judges and legislators must be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. Legislators this past year only agreed to raise judges’ salaries despite Branstad’s proposal to raise pay for legislators and statewide elected officials, too, after the next election in 2014.

“I just felt as a matter of fairness that we need to have a salary structure for people that have significant responsibility that is reasonable,” Branstad says, “but I am understanding of the political situation and the reality of what is the art of the possible.”

Salaries for legislators and statewide elected officials like the governor haven’t been raised since 2005. According to salary data released last week, there are 2,162 state employees who earn more than the governor.

“I knew what the job paid when I ran for it, so that doesn’t concern me,” Branstad says.

The governor says it would be unusual for the chief executive of a company to earn less than many of his top administrators, but Branstad says that’s not the case in state government.

“If you’re going to take on a career in public service, you’ve got to be willing to make a financial sacrifice,” Branstad says.

The governor’s annual salary is $130,000. Branstad made his comments to reporters this morning near the end of his weekly news conference (find the audio here).

The highest-paid state employee is University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. His annual salary is more than $3.7 million. Iowa State football coach Paul Rhodes is number two on the list, with an annual salary of just over $2 million. ISU men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg earns a salary of almost $1.4 million a year and he’s the third-highest-paid state employee. Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery is in at number four with a salary of just over a million. The other state employee salaries on the top ten list include University of Iowa president Sally Mason, Iowa State University athletic director Jamie Pollard and four top administrators associated with the University of Iowa School of Medicine and the U-of-I Hospitals and Clinics.