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Capitol Report: Doyle approved raises; Walker and others took them

Capitol Report: Doyle approved raises; Walker and others took them

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Before Scott Walker was sworn into office as governor in January, he managed to get the state to turn back federal funds to expand high-speed rail in Wisconsin and the Legislature to vote against approval of 18-month-old state union contracts.

But while these positions were vocalized on the grounds they would save money for a state that was "broke," Walker did not take any action to turn down a pay increase set to take effect when he took office.

The pay increases for the state's six constitutional offices, approved by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009, increased the next governor's salary by 5 percent, allowing Walker to earn $144,423, compared to Doyle's $137,092.

"The (state) statutes require that once the rates for office are established in the compensation plan, the elected officials must be paid those rates the next time they take office," said Tim Lundquist, a spokesman with the state Department of Administration, in an email. "If elected officials wish to do so, they can return the increase, or any amount of their paycheck for that matter, to the state."

Walker didn't. Neither did the other five constitutional officers, either those re-elected or those first elected to office by Jan. 1.

"According to central payroll, there have been no payroll deductions for return of salary from constitutional officers," Lundquist said. "However, this does not mean it has never happened because they could accomplish this through writing a personal check and there would be no record that we could access showing these types of payments."

In the 2009-11 compensation plan signed off on by Doyle, five of the state's six constitutional officers were given 5 percent pay raises. Under state law, elected officers are not allowed to receive raises midway through their terms, thus the raises were to apply to the next officeholders, including those re-elected.

Consequently, on Jan. 1, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen went from earning $133,033 to $140,147 and Secretary of State Doug La Follette's salary went from $65,079 to $68,556. Both were re-elected last November.

Tony Evers, elected state superintendent of Public Instruction in April 2009, was the one exception. Evers earned nearly 9 percent more than his predecessor, or $120,111.

He began earning that amount immediately upon being elected to office. Consequently, his pay did not increase like the other constitutional officers on Jan. 1, according to a DPI spokesman.

Besides Walker, newly elected officers Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and State Treasurer Kurt Schuller are receiving the higher salaries approved during Doyle's last term. Kleefisch earns $76,261, up from $72,394 paid to her predecessor, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton; and Schuller earns 68,556, up from $65,079.

Under the 2011-13 pay compensation plan for state employees released this week, there are no raises for the constitutional officers.

The newly released plan shows the amounts Doyle and the other officers were earning, crossed through with a line, next to the salaries that took effect Jan. 1. That created confusion this week, with many people speculating Walker was giving himself a pay raise while freezing the pay of state employees for the next two years.

But, in the current budget biennium that began July 1 and ends June 30, 2013, "there are no pay raises for constitutional officers," Lundquist says.

The compensation plan was submitted Tuesday by the director of the Office of State Employment Relations to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Employment Relations. Walker would have 10 days to review the plan if the committee votes to make any changes. The plan is not final until it is voted on by the legislative committee.