State lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee will get a raise this fall unless enough people object in the next month.
On May 17, a citizen commission that sets salaries of the state’s elected officials and judges voted to increase pay for Washington lawmakers by 2 percent Sept. 1 and another 2 percent in September 2018.
It also agreed to boost the governor’s annual earnings by 1 percent this year and next. Eight other statewide elected office-holders and all judges, from district court to the Supreme Court, are in line for a higher salary as well.
All those pay hikes are subject to repeal by referendum. To force a statewide vote requires someone to file a petition with the Office of the Secretary of State, then collect and turn in at least 129,811 signatures of registered voters. The deadline is June 16.
It’s never happened since voters took the job of setting salaries out of the hands of the legislators in 1986 and entrusted it to this independent commission — not even after the panel awarded an eyebrow-arching 11 percent increase to lawmakers in 2015.
Referendum petitions did get filed with the secretary of state in 1987 by Ed Phillips, of Mossyrock, and in 1991 by Michael Cahill, of Walla Walla. Neither man submitted signatures.
Barring an unforeseen uprising, 143 lawmakers will see their annual pay rise to $47,776 on Sept. 1 and to $48,731 in September 2018. Leaders of the four caucuses earn more because of their added responsibilities. Commissioners approved the increase on a 9-5 vote; nine is the minimum number required for passage.
Inslee, who now earns $173,617 a year, will be making $175,353 with his fall raise. Next year it climbs to $177,107.
Also getting annual raises of 1 percent in each of the next two years are Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Lieutenant Gov. Cyrus Habib, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Auditor Pat McCarthy, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
Commissioners decided on slightly higher two-year increases of 4 percent to Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and 3 percent to Treasurer Duane Davidson. They felt those positions warranted more because duties of those jobs are increasing, said Teri Wright, the commission’s executive director.
And the panel agreed to give all judicial positions a 2 percent raise this year and another 2 percent next year.
The Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, which conducts the salary-setting process every two years, is funded with state tax dollars but operates independent of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
Its 17 members include residents from the state’s 10 congressional districts plus representatives of business, organized labor and higher education. Also represented are the legal and human resources professions.
Over the course of several months, they discussed the responsibilities of each job and reviewed salary data of elected officials in other states and conducted hearings.
In January, the commission agreed on a proposed schedule of increases. It gathered public comment and conducted public hearings in February, March and April as well as Wednesday before taking the vote.
By law, elected officials cannot reject a pay hike.
Jerry Cornfield can be reached at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.