CARSON CITY — State lawmakers and Gov. Jim Gibbons’ top aide differed Monday over what some legislators consider badly timed pay raises for many of the governor’s staff members compared with the 6 percent pay cuts he has proposed for other state employees.
During a Senate Finance Committee meeting, lawmakers got documents showing that all but four members of Gibbons’ 17-member staff would make higher salaries next fiscal year than what legislators approved for the current fiscal year.
But Josh Hicks, Gibbons’ chief of staff, said the overall salary budget for the office would be 11 percent less. After the hearing, Hicks explained that some staff positions were cut, and Gibbons then used salary savings for pay raises for remaining staffers.
Hicks said 10 staff positions were cut since 2007, and remaining employees ended up with expanded duties that warranted more pay. For example, Gibbons had two staffers who dealt with the media, and when one post was erased the remaining staffer took on the work of both positions.
Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, said during the Finance Committee meeting that she wasn’t questioning Gibbon’s authority to increase salaries but questioned the raises in light of proposed cuts and the state of Nevada’s economy.
Mathews, co-chairwoman of Finance, brought up a big pay increase proposed for Gibbon’s communication director, Dan Burns. The salary was funded at about $74,000 but under the governor’s budget increases to about $104,000.
"He’s asking every other division to reduce and bring people in at a lower salary," Mathews said. "I don’t know how it looks to every other state employee, but it doesn’t look good to me."
Hicks said that all staffers in the governor’s office are subject to the same 6 percent pay decrease as other state employees effective July 1, if the governor’s office budget is approved by legislators.
"We’ve been doing the same levels of reductions that every state agency has been doing. We’ve cut our budget exactly the same as everybody else has," Hicks said.
The governor’s office has canceled its membership in the National Governor’s Association and that travel and equipment costs have been reduced, Hicks said.