AUGUSTA — Lawmakers heard arguments Wednesday on a LePage administration bill to more than double the salary of future governors and increase the daily compensation for lawmakers.

The $70,000 a year paid to Maine’s governor has not changed since 1987 and ranks dead last nationally in terms of salary paid to the chief executive. While the governor’s job carries substantial additional perks – including free housing and food in the Blaine House, health insurance and a $35,000 personal expense account – LePage has argued that the $70,000 salary is unjustifiably low considering what other governors make and the changes in cost of living since 1987.

LePage’s bill, which the administration introduced at the behest of lawmakers, would raise the governor’s salary to $150,000 a year beginning next January when the winner of November’s election assumes office. The bill would also increase the daily meals and housing allowance for state legislators from $70 to $125.

“The governor believes the Legislature ought to increase the salary for the next governor and future governors because it is the right thing to do,” LePage’s senior policy advisor Aaron Chadbourne told members of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee.

Chadbourne pointed out that Maine’s median salary has more than doubled since 1987 and that school superintendents across Maine – as well as many of LePage’s senior staff, including Chadbourne – earn well in excess of the governor. In 2016, LePage’s annual compensation package included a $15,809 health insurance plan, $3,717 toward his retirement, $814 for life insurance and a $315 dental insurance policy.

“We arrived at the number of $150,000 because it basically puts the Maine governor in the middle of the pack,” Chadbourne said. While the national average is just shy of $140,000 and the New England average excluding Maine is $146,000, Chadbourne said, LePage proposed going slightly higher because of the historically long duration between raises for the governor in Maine.

The bill, L.D. 1878, would not benefit LePage – who is prohibited from seeking another term – or previous governors because it would not affect the pensions paid to governors who are over age 60 when leaving office. Chadbourne said the governor’s office supported an amendment to the bill clarifying that point.

Rep. John Martin, the Eagle Lake Democrat who is the lead legislative sponsor of LePage’s bill, also argued that lawmakers are overdue for an increase in the per-day allowance paid during the legislative session. Lawmakers are currently eligible for a meal allowance of $32 per day plus another $38 a day to help cover either lodging or mileage to/from their home districts. Those figures have not changed since 1989 and often do not cover the costs of staying in a hotel or apartment in the Augusta area.

“When they’re taking out-of-pocket to stay overnight, that poses a problem for people,” said Martin, a former longtime House Speaker.

While previous LePage bills to increase the governor’s compensation have failed in committee, lawmakers seemed more amenable to the idea on Wednesday.

Rep. Danny Martin, D-Sinclair, said he never felt it was right that he earned “well over $30,000 more” than Gov. John Baldacci when he served as Baldacci’s commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“I think the time is right and we need to do something for future chief executives,” Martin said.

The bill, as currently written, would not change the stipends paid to House and Senate members of $14,074 for the first year of the two-year session and $9,982 for the second year.

The committee had been poised to vote on the bill Wednesday afternoon but Democratic members instead voted to delay action until at least next week.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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