Kurt Daudt wearing the full car salesman | Pat Kessler (I think) photo
by Steve Timmer
Jul 10, 2015, 12:00 PM

Salaries are back in the news!

Please see the update below . . .

During the one day window that was given to him, Mark Dayton raised the salaries of his commissioners. You will remember that he raised them this spring, pursuant to authority given him by the Legislature, and Speaker Kurt Daudt cried piteously at the outrage, and Majority Leader Tom Bakk added his gravely voice in complaint, too.

Well, by legislation, the salaries went back down, and Governor Dayton was given July 1st — one day only: like seniors’ Tuesday at Denny’s — to grant raises again. So he did.

I got some 2014 salary information for the Minnesota Senate; it showed that there were several people who made some pretty respectable salaries, within spitting distance of even the new commissioner salaries, even though the Senate staffers had much less budget responsibility and served only a coterie of Senators.

And since salaries are in the news again, I got some more comprehensive information about the whole Legislature, including the Coordinating Commission offices of the Legislative Auditor and the Revisor of Statutes.

Before we get to that, though, you can read a summary of the new commissioner salaries at this article on the MPR website. The headline to the article says that the “average pay increase” was $20K. The highest new salaries, for people like the Commissioner of Management and Budget is $154,992 (a job currently held, by the way, by a former senior tax partner at a major Minneapolis law firm). If you lop $20K from that, you get around $135,000, which is about what the old top salaries were.

According to the Legislative Coordinating Commission, as of the end of June, there were 54 staff members who made a salary, exclusive of benefits, of $100,000 or more in the Senate, House, Legislative Auditor’s Office, and the Revisor of Statutes. And many of them were right up there with the top commissioners. A sample:

Secretary of the Senate: $143,870
Lead Counsel (Senate) $128,278
Ex. Dir. of the Rules Committee (Senate) $127,314
Chief Clerk of the House $148,000
Chief Financial Officer of the House $146,404
Chief Fiscal Analyst of the House $141,510
Director, House Research $131,000
Ex Dir., House Majority Caucus $123,929 (partisan)
Ex. Dir., House Minority Caucus $127,205 (partisan)
Director, Legislative Coordinating Commission $136,172
Revisor of Statutes $148, 878
Deputy Revisor of Statutes $141,561
Legislative Auditor $140,167
Deputy Legislative Auditor $129,623

Remember now, there are a total of 201 legislators and there are over 5 million citizens in the state of Minnesota. The budgets administered by the commissioners are vastly greater than those administered by the legislative staff. I do not begrudge anyone on this list the money they make. (Well, maybe one person.)

But it is hypocritical in the extreme for Kurt Daudt, especially, to wail and moan — and distribute his little sacks of grievance and resentment — about the money made by the people who actually run the state. In a speech to a bunch of high schoolers, Daudt recently said this:

Daudt told the class there was “almost no way” he could lose in the fight between Dayton and Bakk. Daudt, who said every option for addressing the issue for him “was a win” politically, said yesterday that Republicans would use the issue of the pay increases during the 2016 legislative elections.

The political commentariat at the MSM has fallen all over itself talking about the magnitude of Dayton’s raises to his commissioners, while ignoring — or suffering from titanic incuriosity — about staff salaries in the legislature. And it’s apparent that commissioner salaries have actually lagged the legislative staff salaries until recently.

Update: You may have noticed (I did) that the salary information I was supplied was current as of June 30th.  I followed up and learned that the House, Senate, and the Coordinating Commission will all be granting or considering raises for employees in coming months. The House will do so effective January 1st, and the Senate and the Coordinating Commission will consider raises in coming months. You can probably safely add at least a couple of percent to the numbers above.

Some of you have probably also read about some new salaries in the City of Minneapolis, several of them above the highest-paid commissioners, even after the raises. Local salary data were among the things considered by the governor in deciding commissioner pay raises:

Dayton cited local ­salaries — specifically school superintendents making more than $185,000 — as one reason behind his commissioner raises of about 20 and 30 percent.

But you didn’t read much about that  — until Eric Roper mentioned it in the story above — in the reporting about the governor’s raises.

Even after a salary increase to just under $155,000, the Commissioner of MMB for the State of Minnesota will still make $10,000 less than the city manager in Edina.

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