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In letter, Dayton defends raises for commissioners

Dayton had authorization from the Legislature to give the raises, some of which went were $25,000 to $30,000 a year, but some Republicans attacked the new pay rates.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton defends the pay raises he granted state commissioners this year, which included annual bumps for some of  $25,000 to $35,000.

Word of the raises, which took effect in January, came out last week, prompting some criticism.

But in today’s letter, passed along by Rachel Stassen-Burger of the Pioneer Press (.pdf), Dayton says: “Competitive salaries are important to recruit and retain the very best people for those high level executive positions.”

He notes that government officials are paid with taxes from citizens, “most of whom earn considerable less than my top officials and I do.”

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But the raises were needed, he said, because those state salaries had remained stagnant for over 12 years, and were far below those holding similar positions in other states.

And mid-level managers at many Minnesota companies “earn more than my commissioners, who manage larger budgets and more employees,” he said.

“I want to make clear that none of my commissioners have ever complained to me about their salaries. Not one has ever asked me for a raise. But they, like other working Minnesotans, deserve compensation that is commensurate with their responsibilities.”

The governor concludes the letter by noting that legislators, too, “are woefully underpaid.”

He said he is ready to bring legislative salaries “up to more appropriate levels through significant, one-time adjustments, as I have just made to the executive branch.”