- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A budget proposal pending before a House committee will provide nearly $111 million to raise the salaries of public employees, including a 10 percent pay increase for the governor and other top elected officials next year.

The salaries of the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, land commissioner, treasurer and auditor haven’t changed since 2003. But Republican Gov. Susana Martinez opposes the proposed pay hike for elected officials.

The Appropriations and Finance Committee is expected to vote on a $6 billion budget package Thursday that includes 3 percent cost-of-living salary increases for state agency workers, teachers and other educational employees next year.

The committee also proposes larger pay increases next year for certain government jobs:

-8 percent for judges, district attorneys, state police and motor-transportation officers.

-6 percent for prison guards, juvenile-justice officers, social workers handling child abuse cases and educational assistants in schools.

-$10 million to boost the minimum salaries for all teachers by about $2,000: from $30,000 to $32,000 for an entry-level teacher; $40,000 to $42,000 for what’s called a “level two” teacher; and from $50,000 to $52,000 for the most experienced classroom teachers.

Also included is money for a 10 percent pay increase next year for the governor and other statewide elected officials, who don’t receive cost-of-living adjustments when those are provided to other workers.

“We haven’t given them anything,” Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, a Santa Fe Democrat and deputy chairman of the House committee that handles the budget, said Tuesday.

In the current budget year, state workers are to receive average salary increases of 1 percent and state police are to get 4 percent. Those are the first raises in four years because the state struggled with tight finances when the economy soured.

Even if the budget includes money for a pay raise for elected officials, lawmakers must approve separate legislation to change state law to boost their salaries.

If a 10 percent raise is enacted, the governor’s yearly pay would increase to $121,000. Salaries for secretary of state, auditor and treasurer would go to $93,500. The attorney general’s salary would be $104,500, and the state land commissioner would earn $99,000 annually.

Unlike statewide elected officials, judges receive cost-of-living increases when those are granted.

With the proposed 8 percent increase, the salary of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court would be $136,921; other Supreme Court justices would receive $134,921; and district court judges would be paid $121,767.

But their take-home pay could end up being lower because a proposed overhaul of the retirement system would require judges to contribute an additional 3 percent of their salaries to their pension fund.

Enrique Knell, a spokesman for the governor, said Martinez favors targeted salary increases for employees in jobs that are difficult to recruit and retain, such as child protective services case workers, adult and juvenile probation officers and correctional officers. The governor also has proposed merit pay for high-performing teachers and boosting the salaries of starting teachers to $33,000.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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