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Only four states pay their governors more, but Virginia’s salary is reasonable.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Only four states pay their governors more generously than Virginia, according to a report released last month by The Council of State Governments.
But if you think Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $175,000 salary is excessive, consider that more than 1,000 state employees make more money than Virginia’s chief executive. Our governor is not overpaid.
The governor’s salary is set by the General Assembly and has not been changed since the current rate took effect in 2006. McDonnell and his predecessor, Tim Kaine, took voluntary 5 percent pay cuts during the depths of the economic recession. This year, McDonnell is one of 21 governors earning more than the national average of $133,348 paid to state chief executives, according to the council.
That seems reasonable, given Virginia’s economic profile, the performance of its public institutions and the unique constitutional restrictions placed on our governors. Virginia grants its governors broad authority but limits them to a single, non-renewable term. The salary should be sufficient to make a one-and-done proposition appealing to candidates worthy of the office, regardless of their income.
Some governors in other states continue to take pay cuts, and a few wealthy state executives have forfeited their salaries. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who ran his family’s successful chain of truck stops before seeking political office, returns his $178,356 salary to the state treasury. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is taking a 10 percent pay cut that reduces his salary to $153,970. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has said he won’t take a paycheck until the state’s unemployment rate dips to 5.2 percent.
Those governors should be commended. But Virginians shouldn’t expect their governor to go unpaid, or even underpaid, unless they want the state’s highest office to be a prize reserved for the wealthy. We expect much of our governor, and should pay him or her accordingly.
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