Dayton says he’ll OK commissioner raises

Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said he intends to grant July 1 pay raises to 26 commissioners and department heads.

The governor told reporters he will base his pay decisions on the need to attract and retain top-notch managers but added that he doesn’t plan to approve the maximum pay in most cases.

In January, Dayton increased salaries for his cabinet by a total $802,000. After heavy criticism from lawmakers, he agreed to scale back the pay hikes but only after the Legislature agreed to give him the option of raising their pay on July 1.

Dayton last week signaled pay increases were coming and said they were warranted.

“I thought they were necessary to be competitive salaries,” he said. “I think the people who would receive those salaries earned them. I realize that they are high salaries for everybody in Minnesota but so are other top level executive salaries in the public sector as well as the private sector.”

House Republicans complained that the pay hikes of as much as $35,000 a year are unnecessary for political appointees.

In a letter, House State Government Finance Chair Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, asked Dayton to consider the fact that Minnesota families are seeing flat take-home pay when making his decision.

“As you know, the public polling from earlier this year showed 70 percent of Minnesotans opposed the pay raises for commissioners and the cost incurred by our state,” she wrote. “Please take into consideration the hardworking Minnesota taxpayers who are still struggling to make ends meet and would be alarmed to see your commissioners receive salary increases equivalent to many Minnesotan’s annual pay.”

Senate DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk was among the biggest critics of Dayton’s commissioner pay plan. But his spokesman said Bakk isn’t commenting on the looming raises until Dayton makes them official.