State Government Compensation by Branch

Trends in the compensation of officials from all three branches of state government.

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Executive branch salaries continue to increase but the pace at which they increase is slowing.

  • The average salary for a governor is $131,115. Maine has the lowest salary of $70,000,  while California is the highest at $212,179. Three active governors choose to forgo their salaries. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine accepts only $1 of his $175,000 salary; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger waives his $212,179 salary; and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen returns his $164,292 salary to the state.
  • Of the other elected constitutional officers, the position of attorney general has the highest average salary of $118,619. On average, treasurers are paid $106,078, secretaries of state make $103,530 and lieutenant governors are paid $88,499. The nonelected executive branch position with the highest average salary is the higher education head with an average of $217,909.
  • The average salary for governor increased by nearly 5.5 percent from 2007 to 2009, compared to an increase of almost 8.5 percent from 2004 to 2007. The average salary for attorney general increased by 4.5 percent from 2007 to 2009, compared to an increase of nearly 11.5 percent from 2004 to 2007.

Legislative branch salary types and amounts vary widely.

  • Forty-one states compensate legislators with an annual salary; eight states (AL, KS, KY, MT, NV, ND, UT and WY) pay legislators a per diem salary; and New Mexico does not pay legislators a salary, but it does pay legislators a vouchered per diem. Currently, annual legislative salaries range from $200 in New Hampshire (where legislators serve only part time) up to $116,208 in California. All but five states (CT, NH, NJ, OH and RI) also receive a per diem in addition to their salaries.
  • Legislators in leadership positions often receive extra compensation. Seventy-two percent of senate and 90 percent of house presiding officers receive extra compensation. Fifty percent of senate and 47 percent of house majority leaders receive extra compensation. Forty-eight percent of senate and 50 percent of house minority leaders receive extra compensation.
  • Between 1975 and 2005, the legislative salaries in 28 states decreased, while salaries increased in the remaining 22 states in real 2005 dollars.1

Pay for judges is also increasing, though the annual percentage change is decreasing.

  • In state supreme courts, the average salary is $154,825 for a chief justice and $151,328 for an associate justice. While the annual percent increase in salaries has continued to decline since 2006, the average annual percentage change in salaries from 2003 to 2008 was 3.1 percent for chief justices and 3.2 percent for associate justices.2 In a majority of states, chief justice positions are compensated at a higher rate than associate justices.2 In nine states (FL, GA, IL, IN, MI, NE, WA, WV and WY) there are no salary differences between the two roles.

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Unless otherwise noted, all information is based on figures and comparisons of data found in Tables 3.9, 3.10, 3.11, 4.11 and 5.4 in various editions of The Book of the States, (Lexington, Ky.: The Council of State Governments, 2004-2009).

1. Keon S. Chi, State Legislator Compensation: A Trend Analysis, (Lexington, Ky.: The Council of State Governments, 2007), vii.

2. National Center for State Courts, Survey of Judicial Salaries, Vol. 34, No. 1, (2009).