ST. PAUL, MN—Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, issued the following statement after news yesterday that Governor Mark Dayton approved more than $700,000 in pay increases for his commissioners and political appointees. The raises include a pay increase for Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who will be tied for the highest paid commissioner in the Governor's cabinet at $154,992 annually. DHS is asking the legislature for additional funding due to budget shortfalls before the next fiscal year begins in July, and has announced plans to lay off workers and close several facilities around the state including a children's psychiatric facility located in Willmar.
"The Governor's priorities are way out of line if he's giving pay increases to his commissioners who already make six-figure salaries while families here in Willmar are facing layoffs," Baker said. "Many of the Governor's commissioners are getting pay increases that are more than some families making in an entire year. This is unacceptable, and I look forward to examining this issue along with my colleagues in the coming weeks."
The salary increases approved by the Governor took effect on January 5, 2015. The Legislative Coordinating Commissioner was notified of the salary increases on February 4, 2015. The changes come after a law passed in 2013 by Governor Dayton and the DFL-controlled legislature that allowed salaries for commissioners to move from 85 or 95% of the Governor's salary to 133% of the Governor's salary, and allowed the Governor to unilaterally approve pay increases without approval from the legislature or the public.