Pennsylvania's Governor Earns the Most; Maine's Governor Earns the Least
The average annual salary for U.S. governors in 2015 is $135,289—up just 0.5 percent from the average in 2014, a new survey by The Council of State Governments reveals.
As in 2014, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, earns the lowest gubernatorial salary at an annual rate of $70,000, followed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who earns $87,759 per year. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has the highest gubernatorial salary at $190,823, followed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s salary of $184,632 per year, although Haslam returns his salary to his state.
According to the survey of governors' salaries, published in The Book of the States 2015, governors in three states—Alabama, Florida and Tennessee—do not accept a paycheck or return their salaries to the state, while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder returns all but $1 of his salary to the state. Several governors have taken voluntary salary reductions in recent years, including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Governors in 13 states saw their salaries increase in 2015 over 2014 levels. The average salary increase for these 13 governors was $2,431, or 1.8 percent and ranged from a low of 0.4 percent to three percent.
Only once during the past 10 years has the average annual salary for governors decreased. In 2010, the average salary fell slightly, from $131,115 to $130,595, in large part because the salary for California's governor was reduced by 18 percent based on recommendations from the state's Citizens Compensation Commission. Prior to the reduction, the governor's annual salary was the highest in the country at $212,179. Florida and Hawaii also made paycuts for their top executive branch officials in 2010.
“While governors' salaries are one key item shared in The Book of the States, the other 49 administrative officials' salaries tracked over time provide an even more complete picture of state government changes and priorities through the years,” said Audrey Wall, managing editor for The Book of the States.
Although a number of states reduced governors’ salaries from 2003 to 2009, those reductions were offset by increases in other states, making the average annual change for governor's salaries a 2.8 percent increase over this period.
“We have seen more states reinstituting cost-of-living adjustments for public employees that were put on hold during and after the recession, and that is holding true for governors’ salaries as well," said Jennifer Burnett, CSG's director of fiscal and economic policy. “Although it will always be politically difficult to raise salaries for those in high-profile public offices, the recent progress in the economic and fiscal health of states has allowed the annual increases normally seen in executive branch pay to return to a more historically customary level.”
The Council of State Governments has been collecting data on governors’ salaries since 1937. For the first year data were collected, the average salary for a governor in the 48 states was $7,823. When adjusted for inflation, the average salary for a governor in 1937 becomes $129,643 or just over 4 percent less than the average in 2015.
In 1937, the governor of New York collected the highest salary, earning $25,000 a year. That $25,000 salary in 2015 dollars would be worth $414,302—more than double what Gov. Cuomo earns today. In comparison, the governor of South Dakota earned just $3,000 in 1937, or $49,716 in today's dollars—less than half of Gov. Dennis Daugaard's current $107,121 salary.
“The bottom line of who gets what from state government will always be a factor in determining how states are performing for their citizens,” Wall said. “The Book of the States provides many other markers covering the entire scope of state government services—from governors’ offices to emergency management, the number of schoolchildren to the number of offenders on probation. It offers a wide range of data necessary to give a complete picture of state government at work.”
Source: The Council of State Governments Survey, The Book of the States: The Governors: Compensation, Staff, Travel and Residence, 2015
Alabama - Gov. Robert Bentley is not accepting his salary, $120,395, until the unemployment rate in Alabama drops.
Florida - Gov. Rick Scott does not accept a salary.
Kentucky - Gov. Steve Beshear takes a voluntary 10 percent salary reduction.
Michigan - Gov. Rick Snyder returned all but $1.00 of his salary.
New Hampshire - When Gov. Hassan took office, she reduced her salary to 97 percent of the previous governor’s salary, in line with budget reductions she was asking agencies to make. She has not accepted a salary increase since.
New York - Gov. Andrew Cuomo voluntarily reduced his salary by 5 percent.
Tennessee - Gov. Haslam returns his salary to the state.
Vermont - Gov. Peter Shumlin took a voluntary 3 percent reduction in the annual salary set in statute.