- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Maryland Senate yesterday rejected a proposal to require the governor to get approval from the General Assembly for additional raises this year under a new extension of the executive pay plan.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican, proposed the amendment to the Senate’s budget bill because of big pay raises to several state employees at a time when many state workers “have to struggle to make 1.5 percent” pay increases.

“We shouldn’t be having — treating — some people that are already making high salaries, then hurting the people who barely struggle above minimum wage,” he said.

A new pay scale set up by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has a salary range of $140,000 to $235,000. The EX91 pay scale applies to four positions in the budget: the chairman of the Public Service Commission, the governor’s chief of staff, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the chief medical examiner.

PSC Chairman Steven B. Larsen is set to get the biggest raise — from $118,000 to $188,700.

Democrats opposed the amendment, saying the governor needs to be able to attract experienced people with expertise for important jobs. Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Charles County Democrat, said Mr. Larsen was as an example of somebody who has the expertise for a difficult job.

“I would say, if we strap the governor’s hands on this, he would not be able to get people like the current chairman of the PSC to do the job that we rely on as the citizens of the state to protect the interests of our consumers,” he said.

But Mr. Stoltzfus, who said his amendment would not change the proposed raises, said he had no intention of “strapping his hands at all.”

“He can just come to us and say: ‘Is it OK with you if I do it?’ ” Mr. Stoltzfus said. “That’s all. We’re not strapping his hands, and I suspect that this body would go along with it, but it just gives a little light on what’s happening.”

The amendment was rejected, with 30 senators voting against it and 15 supporting it.

There are a total of 180 positions in the fiscal 2009 executive pay plan. A total of 133 positions received a higher salary in fiscal 2009 then the year before. Of them, 78 received the standard 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment. There were 53 positions that got salary increases over the COLA, according to the state’s Department of Legislative Services. There were also 33 positions assigned a lower salary than in fiscal 2008.

The new pay scale is part of the executive pay plan, which has been around for several administrations. The net change for the executive pay scale from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2009 is set to rise by $1.3 million.

•••

A potential ban on trans fats in restaurants is closer to study in Maryland.

The House agreed to a preliminary version of a bill that calls for an examination of whether the artery-clogging fats should be banned in restaurants.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland supports the study plan.

Montgomery County already is phasing in a trans-fat ban in restaurants, and a similar proposal has been made in Baltimore. Philadelphia and New York also ban trans fats in restaurants, but so far no states have banned them.

Current Maryland law doesn’t specifically address trans fats. The bill would set up a task force to make recommendations on a potential ban by the end of next year.

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