Bakk cites ‘reservations’ over commissioner pay hikes

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, appeared to break ranks with the governor from his own party Wednesday night when he released a statement saying the pay hikes Gov. Mark Dayton approved for his commissioners should have been more measured.

Bakk’s office released a written statement to reporters that he agrees state salaries should be more “proportionate to the private sector pay scale” but he has “reservations about the size of the commissioners’ salary increases.”

The Senate leader said he would have preferred “an incremental and measured implementation” of the commissioner’s salaries.

Bakk’s comments come less than 24 hours before the Senate is poised to debate an emergency spending bill that was certain to include the salary increases. Republicans are expected to offer several amendments that deal with the pay hikes.

The issue over state salaries first surfaced last week when Dayton notified the Legislature that he approved salary hikes for his cabinet in January that amounts to $802,000. He argued the pay hikes were necessary to attract and retain top talent to run state agencies.

Republicans have criticized the salary hikes as “outrageous” and are proposing legislation that addresses the salary hikes. Today, Dayton said House Republicans were hypocrites because they gave top salaries to their staff.

He also said House GOP criticism is “revenge for getting re-elected over their candidate by 100,000 votes.” Dayton also said they’ll keep trying to get mileage out of the controversy.

Bakk’s comments, however, show that some Democrats in the Legislature are worried the pay hikes could tarnish their reelection chances in 2016.

Here’s Bakk’s full statement:

“I am pleased the Governor recognizes state salaries should be more proportionate to the private sector pay scale. However, while I respect the Governor’s discretion granted by  Article III of the Minnesota Constitution, I have reservations about the size of the commissioners’ salary increases. I share the concern to retain and recruit exceptional talent for our state workforce, and while these increases may be warranted, I would prefer an incremental and measured implementation.”