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Washington Governor Boosts Salaries For Several Cabinet Positions

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Since taking office in January, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has raised the salaries for several cabinet level positions. In total, those raises add up to nearly $100,000 over the course of a year. The boost in salaries comes even as the state continues to recover financially.

The biggest pay hike went for the position of director of Department of Licensing. That’s the agency that handles driver licenses and license plates among other duties. The new director – Pat Kohler – earns $141,000 per year. That’s a 17 percent increase over her predecessor.

David Postman, a spokesman for Governor Inslee, says it was a matter of parity with other cabinet officials. “In the case of the Licensing it just seemed to be off compared to other agencies of its size and responsibility and so when the change was made there it seemed like a time to readjust that salary.”

The second biggest salary adjustment went to the new head of Washington’s Health Care Authority, Dorothy Frost Teeter. That position got a 15 percent raise to the top of the allowed salary range: nearly $152,000.

Postman says that’s because the agency has a major role to play in implementing the federal Affordable Care Act here in Washington.

“It’s a priority of the Governor’s to do it and do it well," he says. "It’s important for the economy, it’s important for the health of the people of Washington state. It’s a bigger job than it was prior to this year.”

Inslee has a 25 member executive cabinet – from the Department of Agriculture to Veterans Affairs. As of this month, 12 of those positions have received no adjustment. 12 got salary increases – mostly in the two to eight percent range. And the salary for one position – Puget Sound Partnership – actually went down.

“It sounds like they went through a fair, deliberative process,” says Greg Devereux, who heads the Washington Federation of State Employees.

He says Governor Inslee should take the same approach when the time comes to negotiate new contracts with state workers. “We would hope that just as cabinet member’s salaries have been adjusted to meet market demands that the same thing would apply to state worker salary survey issues.”

During the Great Recession, cost of living increases were frozen for state employees. That was followed by mandatory furloughs. Then came a 3 percent pay cut that hit everyone – including cabinet officers.

That’s since been restored. In the current state employee contracts, the union says most of its members will get a raise in the one to three percent range.

On the Web:

Governor Jay Inslee's Cabinet - Office of the Governor 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."