What's a governor worth? Pay commission: He runs a $15 billion business but is paid just $120,000 a year.

November 03, 1997

PLACING A MONETARY value on the governor of Maryland is always a sensitive issue. The political pressure is so great that all but the most courageous governors have tried to discourage the state's salary commission from recommending vastly higher compensation rates.

Maryland's Gov. Parris N. Glendening is paid $120,000 a year -- the same figure that has applied since 1990. How many workers have gone eight years between raises? If the salary commission freezes the governor's pay for another term, it will mean no adjustments for 12 years -- until 2002.

Private-sector CEOs for $15 billion companies are paid millions. Yet the individual running this state's $15 billion government doesn't earn as much as thousands of middle-level executives. Heck, he is paid less than two of his cabinet secretaries and a number of state university presidents and top administrators.

There is a serious imbalance when the boss receives less than the people he hires and fires. Efforts to restore that equilibrium have floundered in the past due mainly to politics.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey would love to make a pay hike an election issue. She is on record favoring a reduction of the current $120,000 pay to the average salary for U.S. governors. Candidates in other states have employed similar grandstanding moves with some success.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Glendening has informed the salary panel that he desires no pay hike if he is reelected. Given Ms. Sauerbrey's posture, that is a wise political counter-move.

But the commission should not be swayed by candidates' manueverings. Panel members should set a fair and sensible pay scale for Maryland's next governor that recognizes the office's important responsibilities. A $10,000 increase, for instance, would not be out of the question. That's how much the salary commission recommended in 1990. It was rejected by the General Assemby, which has the power to either approve the commission recommendations or reduce them.

Politicians are not in their line of work for the monetary rewards. But in most cases, top officeholders should be paid more than their subordinates. The salary commission should keep that in mind as it renders its judgment.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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