AUGUSTA — It’s not clear whether Gov. Paul LePage will try again to give his successor in the state’s top job a pay raise.

Because Maine hasn’t increased the governor’s $70,000-a-year salary since 1987, the governor now earns substantially less than any of his peers around the country.

That may not matter to lawmakers skeptical of shelling out more money when so many competing needs are likely to face at least the threat of cuts.

The average governor across the country hauled in $137,415 last year, according to a survey by The Council of State Governments — and that figure has been increasing about 2 percent annually for years.

LePage tried to secure an increase in the governor’s compensation to $150,000 last spring, though it wouldn’t have helped him. The proposed pay hike, which the Legislature shelved, would have taken effect in 2019, after the two-term Republican leaves office.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Adrienne Bennett, said she couldn’t comment on whether LePage might try again to win a pay raise for the next occupant of the governor’s mansion, the Blaine House.


She said they don’t talk about bills until the measures are fully drafted or nearly so. She added, though, that the governor’s priorities are the budget and “lowering the tax burden on hardworking Mainers.”

LePage told a radio station the spending plan he’s working on is the most difficult he’s yet dealt with.

“There’s some really good programs that are going to have to be cut,” the governor said.

Still, there is reason to think LePage may push for the pay hike in the new year.

Hank Fenton, a deputy counsel for the governor, testified last spring that LePage “believes that keeping the governor’s salary at $70,000 dissuades capable individuals who are not wealthy from considering running for office during the most productive years of their career.”

“This is because they cannot afford to forgo the opportunity to earn more money in the private sector,” Fenton told legislators.


Given that prospective gubernatorial candidates are already planning their campaigns for 2018, there’s not much room for delay if LePage hopes to make the job more attractive to contenders who aren’t wealthy.

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, said he agrees governors “should be paid more.”

But, he added, “at a time when there are so many other pressing needs to be addressed in this state, and when so many Mainers are losing jobs or lack good-paying jobs, the governor’s salary is not a priority for me.

“Right now, I’m focused on raising the wages of tens of thousands of Mainers who don’t get paid a living wage for their hard work,” said Golden, the assistant majority leader.

Hiking the governor’s pay to $150,000 annually would cost taxpayers an additional $129,000 per year because a higher salary would also increase the expense of related benefits and taxes, according to a fiscal note attached to the governor’s bill.

The Legislature’s opposition to the measure last spring was spurred in part by its concern that the proposal came so late in the session that there wasn’t time to deal with it adequately. But that wasn’t the only reason.


Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, pointed out Friday that the governor has “an almost $40,000 unauditable expense account” in addition to his salary, as well as the Blaine House food budget, a personal transportation budget and other discretionary accounts.

Libby, the assistant minority leader in the Senate, said the notion that Maine has the lowest-paid governor is “not quite accurate” because the additional funds aren’t counted in the survey.

At least 865 Maine state employees earn more than the governor, including many who work for him directly, according to salary records kept by the comptroller’s office.

The governor’s pay is overshadowed by many municipal and educational leaders across Maine as well.

For example, despite serving as the chief executive for the entire state, LePage will earn nearly $100,000 less than Portland City Manager Jon Jennings in the coming year.

Among governors, LePage makes so little that the next lowest salary for any of his peers is $20,000 a year higher. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper earns $90,000 annually, according to the Council of State Governments survey.


LePage collects a much lower salary than any other New England governor. The other five states in the region pay between New Hampshire’s $127,000 and Massachusetts’ $152,000.

In fact, the average pay of the other New England states is almost exactly twice as high as what LePage gets.

Any change won’t bolster LePage’s paychecks because Maine’s constitution says the chief executive’s salary “shall not be increased or diminished during the governor’s continuance in office.”

If legislators set a new compensation level, it would only take effect for whoever is elected in 2018.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: