O’Malley places top aides in new pay grade

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ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley created a new pay grade for top members of his administration, including Public Service Commission Chairman Steven B. Larsen, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The discovery follows recent findings that Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, gave more than $600,000 in pay raises to 47 of his top aides, even as state workers face potential cuts in pay raises.

Under the new pay grade, EX91, Mr. O’Malley will pay four employees as much as $235,000.

The previous cap for high-ranking employees of a Maryland governor was $159,632, but governors frequently exceeded the figure.

“The creation of the new scale allows for more transparent and open reporting,” O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said yesterday.

The new grade increases the cap for state employees paid under Maryland’s executive pay plan, including top aides to the governor, the comptroller and the attorney general.

Three of the four jobs already exceeded the executive plan cap. The fourth job, the PSC chairman position, was added to the plan, allowing whoever fills the job to earn regular pay increases along with the rest of those in the executive pay plan.

Mr. Larsen, whom Mr. O’Malley hand-picked to run the commission, is now slated to earn $188,700 annually. He previously earned $118,280.

The job was previously in the same category as the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and other high-ranking state officials. The category does not guarantee pay-grade or cost-of-living increases.

Mr. Larsen, who presided over a 72 percent increase in Baltimore Gas & Electric Company customer rates, will now be entitled to regular cost-of-living pay raises and merit-pay raises.

The executive pay plan was created by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, to improve pay for top officials.

Changes in the pay plan — including pay raises, reclassifications or the creation of new jobs — had to be approved by the Board of Public Works until 2000, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening pushed legislation removing that requirement, on the grounds that it was hard to maintain talent when they were routinely scrutinized.

Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, replaced the board scrutiny with a regular reporting requirement.

However, Mr. O’Malley’s budget secretary, T. Eloise Foster, testified in favor of a bill last month that would have stripped that reporting requirement from state law.

Salaries and pay for state workers have become increasingly contentious topics as lawmakers wrestle with a new budget deficit, expected to result in $330 million to $570 million in budget cuts.

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