Governor’s office pay raises questioned
March 17, 2009
CARSON CITY ” The governor’s office came under fire Monday morning as Senate Finance Chairman Bernice Mathews, D-Sparks, questioned pay raises given to most of the staff.
According to data provided by the governor’s and budget offices, the biggest increases over the past two years were for the position of communications director, now held by Dan Burns. Two years ago when Melissa Subbotin held that job, the pay was $50,196. When the positions of communications director and press secretary were combined, Subbotin was bumped to $72,256.
Total pay for that position this fiscal year is $109,996, a difference of $35,740.
“How do we justify a 28.5 percent increase? How does he justify that when he’s asking everybody else to take a 6 percent cut?” Mathews asked.
She said that isn’t the only increase in staff salaries, either. All but four of the 17 employees in the governor’s office received raises this past year.
“Everybody else is being asked to bite the bullet,” said Mathews.
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Most of the increases were due to promotions or changes in duties.
The most dramatic example on the list is Jodi Stephens. Two years ago, she was an administrative assistant making just over $50,000. She has since been promoted twice, to legislative assistant and then legislative director. Chief of Staff Josh Hicks said that is a significantly higher level position and explains why her current pay is just under $104,000.
Even so, that is $10,535 less than her predecessor Steve Robinson was paid during the 2007 Legislature.
“Almost everybody here has seen their job change,” Hicks said.
During the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Budget Director Andrew Clinger said many of the increases were the result of fewer employees taking on greater responsibilities and workloads. Over the past two years, the office has gone from 27 to 17 employees.
After communications director, the biggest increase was the legislative assistant, a raise of $14,888 to $57,320. But that is nearly $10,000 less than the post earned two years earlier.
The assistant to the general counsel received an $11,662 bump to $63,498.
“The bottom line is the governor has the authority to set salaries in his office as long as he doesn’t exceed the overall legislatively approved amount,” Hicks said.
In addition, no employee except those designated as exempt by the Legislature can make more than the governor, who is paid $141,000.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said in committee that lawmakers 10 years ago gave the governor the power to set his staff’s salaries.
Mathews said she understands that, but that it looks bad when every other state worker is being asked to take a pay cut.
Hicks said that in addition to the legislative director’s position, three other staff members saw their pay decrease, including himself. Hicks’ salary dropped $2,442 to $133,340, according to the budget office.
General Counsel Chris Nielsen’s pay dropped $4,114 to $120,000, and the Southern Nevada constituent services director’s post fell $10,320 to $48,024.