Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Paycheck blues

Al Diamon

Gov. Janet Mills is leaving Maine to become governor of Iowa. The reason: Iowa pays its chief executive almost twice as much as Maine.

Mills, who earns a paltry $70,000 a year, the lowest gubernatorial salary of any state, also had offers from Kentucky ($148,781), Maryland ($170,000) and North Dakota ($129,096), but went with the Iowa deal ($130,000) because it comes with unlimited corn and pork products. What politician could resist?

Like 95 percent of the political emails I receive every day, most of the preceding two paragraphs is false. Unlike sports teams and corporations, governors aren’t recruited by the competition with promises of excessive salaries and lavish perks. Every state has plenty of local talent lining up for a shot at the top office. Except, maybe, New Jersey. But in most places, there’s no need to expand the pool of applicants by soliciting out-of-staters.

The job of governor always attracts an excess of candidates because it comes with a benefit few occupations can offer: power. That’s far more attractive than money, corn fritters or sausage.

Nevertheless, some legislators are concerned that if Maine doesn’t increase the governor’s salary, the state is going to end up with an unqualified bozo in the Blaine House. As if that would ever happen.

The State Compensation Commission recently issued a report that said the guv’s paycheck is “embarrassingly low, suggesting a disrespect for the position and making Maine an outlier from the rest of the country.” Like that’s a bad thing?

The commission called for increasing the governor’s salary to $130,000 and boosting the office’s expense account (which is definitely NOT a slush fund) from $30,000 to $40,000 annually. The report said these increases are needed because it’s tough to scrape by on 70 grand, free housing in an historic mansion, free food, free transportation, free health care, generous retirement benefits and taxpayer-funded servants.

Somehow, though, most of us do.

The median household income in the state in 2018 was $55,602. No free house. No free car. No servants. Possibly some partially subsidized medical insurance and an inadequate retirement plan.

Don’t get me wrong. Since the governor’s salary hasn’t been increased since 1987, some sort of pay hike should be on the table – where it can compete with all the other demands for our tax dollars. Such as:

The waiting list of severely disabled adults in need of housing and assistance.

The lack of services for foster parents sheltering abused and neglected children.

The shortage of drug treatment facilities.

Decaying roads and bridges, as well as feeble mass transit options.

The increased threats of coastal flooding, forest fires and other consequences of global warming.

Buying out Central Maine Power and relocating its executives to cold, dark hovels located under power lines in what was formerly wilderness.

On any reasonable person’s priority list of state spending, increasing the governor’s salary would likely come after all those items, not to mention doing something about high liquor prices and ridiculous marijuana regulations.

Still, there are those who persist in advocating for the guv to get a raise. Chief among them is former Gov. Paul LePage, who complained during a 2017 radio interview, “I feel like a priest or a nun, you know. You go into poverty to serve the public.”

For the record, in 2018, the supposedly penniless LePage and his wife bought a house in Florida in a private, gated community on a golf course and overlooking what the Lewiston Sun Journal quoted a real estate agent as calling a “serene wooded setting.” Complete with pool and large covered porch, it cost the allegedly indigent former governor $360,000.

It’s good to be poor.

So good, in fact, that LePage, who’s now a legal resident of the Sunshine State, has repeatedly threatened to return to Maine and run against Mills in 2022. To do that, LePage would have to establish a residence here, and there’s no telling how he’d manage to maintain two addresses on the governor’s meager salary.

Yet another excellent argument against handing out a raise.

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22 Responses »

  1. "The median household income in the state in 2018 was $55,602.". Would be a lot lower if you left out Cumberland county!

  2. I always found it interesting that the gov is paid 70k when you can look up every state worker on
    And find many workers make much more than the governor. Although, all the perks the governor gets, the 70k could go right into the bank, yes?

    It would be interesting to see if Lepage does try to come back.

  3. Why doesn't the governor's salary directly reflect the median income of the state? I'm pretty certain I could name 50 people in Maine who would make an acceptable governor (no worse than the ones we elect, at least) for under $50,000 a year, plus all of the perks.
    Perhaps instead of voting for someone who wants to push their own political agenda we should just stick some poor sap with the job each term- like jury duty, only with a bigger paycheck and a nice place to live while you serve your civic duties.

  4. Only in Maine (or another socialist pit) would people even BEGIN to worry about the pay of the a state so full of poverty. One of the most-taxed, least-served and impoverished of all 50.

    Truly, the elites are back....just like a monarchy. Tax to death those making $22,000/yr. Worry about "legislators". Amazing.

    Let them eat cake! Clearly the voters aren't smart enough to know when they're being robbed.

  5. The Portland bashing is tiresome and kind of whiny. What’s up with that? Almost every comment thread denigrates Cumberland County. Why the obsession with southern Maine? It’s unbecoming.

  6. Working has a great point.
    Laura there isn’t any Portland bashing in any comments. The statement about Cumberland County is simply stating facts.
    Al never fails in his predictability of bashing LePage.
    With that said it should make for some good comments to entertain the week ahead.

  7. I served for seven years on the planning board in a town in Maine. Our stipend was $15 a month. We had at least one meeting a month that typically lasted three to five hours. In order to prepare for the meeting we had to read a packet of submissions that could take an additional three to five hours. If we wanted to go check out a particular site, we might drive to it and look it over. Sometimes we had site walks on Saturday mornings. One month we put in 40 hours, rounded up our pay was 38 cents an hour.

    As it came time for me to rotate off the planning board, I ran for and was elected to the town council. Big salary increase to $500 a year. But a lot more meetings and constituent service.

    So yes we do receive a lot of government services for not much. In fact there are many dedicated people in towns in Maine who serve on recycling committees, comprehensive plan review committees, zoning boards, library boards and the like where the compensation is zero. Do we get the best possible government for what we pay? Do we get the kind of government we deserve?

    Cindi Lauper remined us that "Money Changes Everything". Was she right?

  8. Doesn't like the pay, quit. Problem solved.

  9. A raise for the Governor,I don't think so.$70,000 is plenty for someone with no expenses.Most mainers would be happy as clam in mud with that salary,except some of them down in Cumberland county,sorry.Oh and don't worry about Mills,I'd bet a week's pay she will have more money when she leaves office at the end of this term than she had before becoming Governor.She won't be the first but she needs to pick it up a bit to out do the King

  10. If the joker returns....

  11. @Move over...ha ha ha, like your answer to this perplexing problem!

  12. Perhaps she should have taken the offer from another state! She will leave ours in shambles with no "rainy day" fund. I am sure that is long gone!

  13. Snippit. She claims in her state of the state speech that she will add another $20 million to the rainy day fund this year. Not really sure how she plane to do so with spending $15 million on broadband access and expanding state agencies putting more money needed in their budgets without raising taxes. Me thinks she may not understand how things really work.

  14. Cookymonster is very correct about the time and dedication it takes to serve, whether paid or unpaid.

    Too often the stipend reflects how undervalued the work is.

  15. Cookymonster... Why did you server... not drafted were you..??

  16. @cooky,the answer to your question is no,we do not get what we deserve from our upper government and we won't at any price because they are self serving unlike the near volunteer types in most small towns.

  17. The politcians,be it JM,PL,or who ever,are what's wrong with our state/country. They get elected to represent who? Oh right,there selves and "special interests". And they All walk away with a much bigger bank account.

  18. I don't care what anyone says, I am LePage all the way.....for lots of reasons. Let's just say, he made people work.

  19. If pay was based on job done, LePage would be a millionaire and Mills would be eating instant ramen and rat cooked over a barrel fire.

  20. Well stated Hrtlss Bstrd. Couldn't agree more.

  21. Glad to see most real working Mainers know Mills has been a total disaster for Maine. More welfare where none is needed. Able bodied adults stealing benefits from a system that can’t take care of those that truly deserve it. More refugees despite the fact that we can turn them down. More stupid legislation that should have been vetoed straight out of the gate. Yeah, anyone paying taxes in Maine surely does miss Governor LePage. Mills won’t survive the next election.

  22. I will never forget the political ad Rep.Goldens wife said when he was plugging for office. The gist of it was having left the service he was working three jobs to make ends meet for his family. I thought may be he does "GET IT" after all. For every public servant whining about not getting a big raise or having to share in their insurance costs there are a pile of Mainers on the front lines working for no benefits at all. Even if they are lucky they are grossing twenty thousand plus a year. Even places with dependable full year work have found out they can rotate employees to get the new tech they need or to keep costs down. I would like to know just how many of these people that were hired were replacements or new jobs created. Either way "OK" just dont feed me a bunch of bullcrap about "NEW" jobs. All these people who work for the public need to understand unlike the "FEDS" we little people in Maine cannot print money. We cannot keep up with the inflation in southern Maine and dont want to. What part of " We dont want to create a twenty dollar hamburger." dont you understand. And dont even get me started about all our disabled people riding down to their mailbox on their 4-wheelers,snowmobiles, or new SUV's to get a check bigger bigger then a lot of working people before they pay the price to get to work. Its a sorry fact of life that votes cost money somewhere but you can't keep grinding away at the courage of the little working man without paying a very high price.Do not label me as a person that does not care, I do. "BUT" not to the point where I see people running around doing everything I do except working for it.