Government

Iowa governor's salary unchanged for over a decade, falls in rankings

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announces Adam Gregg as Lieutenant Governor Thursday, May 25, 2017, at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announces Adam Gregg as Lieutenant Governor Thursday, May 25, 2017, at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Throughout her campaign for a four-year term, Gov. Kim Reynolds often touted paycheck growth as evidence that her administration’s policies were benefiting Iowans.

On the campaign trail, she cited reports that Iowans “have seen three straight quarters of wage growth.”

However, that doesn’t apply to her paycheck. The salary for Iowa’s governor — $130,000 a year — hasn’t changed since 2005.

Max Freund / The Gazette

Back then, after Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack approved a 17.3 percent increase as part of a boost for all state-level elected officials, Iowa’s governor salary was the 27th highest in the nation. That was down from 16th a decade earlier.

In 2008, his Democratic successor, Gov. Chet Culver, vetoed legislation to boost the governor’s salary by 9.7 percent to $142,570 and provided double-digit pay increases for other statewide elected officials.

Today, unchanged for 13 years, the salary Reynolds is paid is 32nd out of 50.

Despite that, don’t look for the governor or other statewide constitutional officers to get a raise anytime soon.

“I did not hear that concern at the doors” during the campaign, said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, take a laissez faire approach to the issue.

“We all get into public service knowing what the salary is,” he said. “It’s more about service than it is a career. The governor and lieutenant governor ran for office knowing what that salary would be. They’re here to serve, not just to collect a paycheck.”

Upmeyer agrees, but said salaries shouldn’t be ignored.

“I never want these jobs to be something people do for the money,” she said, but neither does she want the governor nor other elected officials to have to take a financial hit to serve. “We want people to keep stepping up to do these things.”

California, the nation’s most populous state, the governor’s salary tops the field at $195,806, and Pennsylvania is less than $1,000 behind at $194,850, according to the Council of State Government’s annual Book of the States.

Maine has the lowest gubernatorial salary — at $70,000, it is one of five states where the governor earns less than $100,000.

The average salary for a governor is nearly $140,000, according to the Council of State Government.

The Iowa governor also is in the middle of the pack when compared to neighboring states. In Illinois, where multimillionaire Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will be succeeded by billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker, the governor’s salary is $177,412. That’s tops in a seven-state survey by the nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is a part-owner of the Chicago Cubs and has a reported net worth of nearly $50 million, is the lowest paid governor in the Midwest, earning $105,000.

The survey found that Iowa’s lieutenant governor’s salary of $103,212 is second-highest among the seven states. The attorney general’s salary of $123,669 is third-highest. Like the lieutenant governor, the other statewide elected officials are paid $103,212. That makes the secretary of state third-highest, treasurer fourth-highest and secretary of agriculture seventh of seven.

About 2,750 state employees earn more than that governor’s $130,000 salary.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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