Pay raises for officials draw criticism

SALEM — Proposed pay raises for legislators and other public officials drew complaints Thursday from some Oregon residents who said there's no justification for the increases at a time when the economy is declining.

A public commission has tentatively recommended raising legislators' pay by 22 percent, to $25,200, with larger increases for other elected officials, to bring their pay in line with that of officials in other states.

But a half dozen people who testified at a public hearing on the issue took a dim view of the pay hikes.

"Our family budget is being eaten up" by rising costs, said Virginia Dixon, a homemaker from Junction City. "I have friends who have lost their jobs. It would insult the people in this state" to give raises at this point.

Eugene retiree Wayne Antone took particular aim at the commission's proposal to increase Gov. Ted Kulongoski's pay by almost 40 percent, from $93,600 to $130,000.

"What has he done to deserve a pay raise?" Antone said of Kulongoski.

The only testimony in favor of the increases came from Janice Thompson, head of a good government advocacy group called Democracy Reform Oregon.

Thompson said low salaries make it difficult to attract top-notch people to serve in the Legislature, which for many is a part-time job.

"Who's going to run for the Legislature if you can't afford to take the financial hit?" she said.

The 11-member citizen commission is conducting Oregon's first detailed review of elected officials' salaries in years. It plans to issue a formal set of recommendations in November.

Any pay raises would have to be approved by the Legislature, which in view of the state's declining economy could be in doubt at this point.

Among its other recommendations, the commission is proposing to boost the Oregon attorney general's $77,200 salary would be increased to $119,000.

The salaries of the secretary of state, state treasurer, state school superintendent and state labor commissioner all would go from the current $72,000 a year to $100,000 a year.

At Thursday's public hearing, Salem retiree Bill Cox said it would be "ridiculous" to give lawmakers a 22 percent pay boost at a time when the state is struggling to find ways to pay for deteriorating roads and bridges.

"There's no justification, with the economic downturn we're in, for a 22 percent increase. This is not the time to do it," Cox said.

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