The governor of Indiana, as well as other top state-level officeholders, would get pay raises worth at least $20,000 apiece under a proposal before the Legislature.
The measure by state Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, comes as Republican supermajorities in the Statehouse are considering a 10-cent-per-gallon gas-tax increase and an additional $15 vehicle-registration fee to be used to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Head, who is chairman of the Senate's Civil Law committee, said Monday that his pay raise bill will be a tough sell, given the push by GOP leaders for a tax increase.
"Does that complicate things? Absolutely," said Head. "There will be constituents throughout the state who say 'Well, wait a minute. Why is that guy getting a raise if you're taking more money out of my pocket?'"
But he added that salaries for top level offices "are so low that I think we drive away talent from both parties."
Under the measure, the governor's $111,000 yearly salary would increase by about $30,000 in 2021. In a short email, a spokeswoman for Gov. Eric Holcomb said "it's not among the governor's legislative priorities."
The proposed pay increase would not kick in during his current four-year term and Head says he did not consult the governor's office in advance.
The bill would also give at least a $20,000 pay bump, effective next year, to the state's lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general and state schools superintendent. Currently they each make less than $100,000 a year.
As written, the bill would achieve the pay increase by making the governor's salary equal to that of a Marion County circuit court judge, which is $141,311 a year, according to a financial impact note for the measure. The state's other constitutional officeholders would receive annual pay equal to 85 percent of a Marion County circuit court judge's salary.
The bill was debated in the Civil Law committee that Head chairs. But a vote was not taken because several members of the committee want to research changes that they would like to make to the bill first.
A 2015 analysis by the Council of State Governments of governor salaries across the U.S. found Indiana ranks low in pay compared to the average, which is $134,000 a year. As is, the governor of Indiana still earns more than the governor of Maine, the least compensated chief executive of a state, who makes about $70,000, according to the analysis.
Head said he proposed the bill after new Attorney General Curtis Hill pointed out that he made more as a prosecutor near South Bend than he does as the state's top lawyer, where he is paid $94,538 a year.
"We want people to run for public office because the feel called to do the work and they want to do the job for the right reasons — not to get rich," said Head. "But we also don't want the salary to be so low that we drive away good and talented people."