Being governor may sound like a high annual salary position, but governor salaries don’t always pay as much as one might think. In a recent report of governor salaries, stateline.org cited the average governor salary to be $124,398. The annual salary for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the highest in the governor salary ranking, $206,500, but he does not accept his salary (he did pretty well in Hollywood, if I recall). As I mentioned in a previous column, Salary Increases in the News, Schwarzenegger has been generous to his top state officials, upping their salaries, often in the face of criticism.
On the other end of the governor salary ranking, we have the governor of Maine, who earns only $70,000 per year. That political office hasn’t seen a raise in 20 years! Maine Governor John Baldacci actually saw a decrease in pay of $80,000/year in 2003 when he decided to give up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and become governor. Balducci’s own assistant reportedly earned more than he did in 2005, with an annual salary of $102,000. Governor Baldacci actually opposed a pay raise for himself in 2006, but supported a raise for the state’s teachers. Why isn’t he running for President?
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What is the salary for the governor of California, again?
It may be a good political maneuver not to accept a salary these days, especially when states are so cash-strapped – some are actually leasing their public highways to foreign private investors (Indiana is one). Faced with an enormous California debt, it makes good political sense for Governor Schwarzenegger not to accept a salary. Likewise, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen does not accept his annual salary of $85,000. Like Schwarzenegger, Bredesen made his fortune before taking office; his road to riches was starting a health insurance company.
The highest-paid governor, of those who accept governor salaries, is New York’s Elliot Spitzer, who earns $179,000. Of course, what Spitzer lacks in cash, he makes up for in endless perks: swanky events, the governor’s mansion and travel assistance. In fact, according to the Council of State Governments, 46 states help pay their governor’s travel costs and 44 have official residences for their governor. Being governor can serve as a launching pad to the presidency: Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were all governors; some say Spitzer may run in four years.
Salary of the Governor: One Dollar?
Over in New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine accepts an annual salary of $1. If Corzine took home the entire salary of the governor for this state, he would earn $175,000. Don’t worry about Corzine though, before entering the governor’s mansion, he was the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs where he earned a reported compensation (via real estate, stocks, bonds) of close to $6 million in 2006. From 2000 to 2005, Corzine was a U.S. senator, but chose to donate his salary to charity. If that wasn’t enough, he will personally pay for his medical bills from his April car accident.
Out west, Republican leaders in Arizona claim that the governor’s salary, $95,000, will reduce the quality of candidates running for office, so they are pushing a bill to raise the governor salary to $112,500. However, the current governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, is fighting against the annual salary increase. She’s not the only one. Democrat Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of Illinois say they will turn down future raises.
Where do the rest of the governor salaries stand? You can look up the salary of the governor for your state at stateline.org.
Do you earn more than the governor of your state? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.
Dr. Al Lee