Ryan Johnson, Published July 11 2013
After decades behind in pay, ND governor nears Minn.Bismarck - North Dakota Gov. Art Link earned a salary of just $27,500 in 1980, the country’s lowest pay for a governor.
Minnesota Gov. Al Quie was paid more than twice as much, with his $62,000 annual salary the country’s eighth-highest.
But a review of historical data from the Council of State Governments shows that while North Dakota’s salary has more than quadrupled since 1980, Minnesota’s salary hasn’t quite doubled in that same amount of time and hasn’t gone up at all since 1998.
According to the Lexington, Ky., nonprofit, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s annual salary for 2013 is $116,999 and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2013 salary is $120,303. According to a report by the council, Dalrymple was the 35th-highest paid governor in 2013 while Dayton was 31st.
In 1937, the first year the Council of State Governments tracked the salaries of top administrators in each state, Minnesota paid $7,000 a year while North Dakota paid $4,000. That amounts to about $113,260 in Minnesota when adjusted for inflation and about $64,720 in North Dakota.
The country’s average salary for a governor in the 48 states at the time was $7,823, or about $126,575 when factoring in inflation – just 5 percent less than the 2013 average salary for a governor of $133,348.
New York held the top ranking for its pay in 1937, when the state gave its governor $25,000 – more than $400,000 when adjusted for inflation – and it continued to have the country’s highest salary for decades. New York now pays $179,000.
Pennsylvania has recently jumped into the No. 1 spot, offering Gov. Tom Corbett a salary of $187,256 – the country’s highest. But Corbett has refused several cost-of-living adjustments, and his actual earnings are around $175,000 each year.
Several governors have given up part or all of their salaries in recent years, according to the Council of State Governments.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has pledged not to accept his salary of $119,950 until the unemployment rate drops there, while the governors of Florida and Tennessee don’t take any of their pay. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder returns all but $1 of his $159,300 annual salary, and the governors of Kentucky, New York and Vermont have taken voluntary pay reductions of 5 to 10 percent.
During the Minnesota government shutdown in 2011, Dayton and 62 legislators declined their paychecks. While serving as lieutenant governor in 2002, Dalrymple and then-North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven turned back pay increases they were scheduled to receive.
But the salary in North Dakota has grown considerably in recent years, rising from $76,884 in 2000.
Officials from the governor’s office in both states told The Forum they had different salary figures than were included in the council’s report. In North Dakota, Dalrymple is paid $121,679 annually in 2013, officials said, nearly $4,700 more than the report lists. Dayton’s office said his 2013 salary was $120,311, $8 more than the report states.
Both governors are also getting raises. The North Dakota Legislature earlier this year approved an annual raise of 3 percent for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014.
Spokesman Jeff Zent said Dalrymple believes the pay for North Dakota’s governor’s pay is “adequate” and pointed out the legislators are in charge of setting it.
Minnesota legislators, too, approved a 3 percent pay raise for the governor during the 2013 session – increasing the salary for the first time since 1998. The annual raise will be effective in 2015 and 2016.
Spokesman Matt Swenson said Dayton will donate that increase to a Minnesota charity if he’s still the governor in 2015.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587