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McDonnell among top 5 highest paid governors

By   /   April 13, 2011  /   No Comments

By Alissa Smith

Virginia Statehouse News

RICHMOND — Virginia’s governor is among the highest paid governors in the country.

An annual study released by the Council of State Governments shows that even in poor economic times, Gov. Bob McDonnell ranks near the top of the pay scale.

The top five highest paid governors come from New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia, according to the CSG’s Book of the States 2010, a reference book with details about all 50 United States and the six territories.

The study shows that a governor in the United States earned an average of about $130,600 in 2010, but that represents a 4 percent decrease from the previous year.

At $175,000 a year McDonnell, is only $4,000 short of receiving what top earning Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York earns, who brings in $179,000.

The number released as McDonnell’s salary is what is written in the budget, but that number doesn’t reflect any cut he might take or a decision not to take the money. It also does not include his pension plan.

Taylor Thornley, deputy press secretary to the governor, said that when McDonnell was elected in 2009, he and his entire 13-member cabinet took a 5 percent pay cut for the first six months in office from what was paid during previous Gov. Tim Kaine’s tenure. But the pay has risen again as state revenue increases.

Just like any other state employee, according to Thornley, McDonnell picks his own health care plan and, because of his 21 years of state employment, is a vested member of the Virginia Retirement Service.

“No one earns as much as our counterparts did during the Kaine administration,” Thornley said.

Thornley said that the only perks the governor receives are the mansion and a car security detail — those things that most governors have, he added.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, ran against McDonnell in the 2009 general election. He said he doesn’t believe that any governor of Virginia is paid too much.

“The thing about the governorship of Virginia is that you only get four years and if you totally focus on it you can get a lot done,” said Deeds. “So I don’t think the governor’s pay is unreasonable or over paid.”

“The governor rarely has anything to do with his compensations — if ever. It is what it is allotted by the state for the governor to receive,” said Audrey Wall, managing editor of the Book of the States.

She said the recent trend has been for the governor to take a pay cut and in some cases, like former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, forgo any pay.

“Not a lot of raises will be given to anybody in the next few years if the economy continues this way,” said Wall.

McDonnell earns almost $100,000 more than Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, who has the lowest salary of all 50 governors at $70,000 a year.

LePage’s office could not be reached for comment.

The governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, earns $150,000 — closer to what McDonnell earns —  compared to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia who earns $95,000.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling earns around $36,000 a year from the state.

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