Staff pay shrinks under Sandoval

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval’s staff members will be paid less than their counterparts were paid under Nevada’s last cost-cutting governor.

Sandoval on Monday released the annual salaries of his office staff. The Personnel Department, in response to a request, released the pay of Cabinet members.

The information shows his chief of staff, former Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, will be paid $124,988 a year, which is less than the $133,340 that Gov. Jim Gibbons paid his Chief of Staff Josh Hicks in 2009.

Sandoval’s general counsel, Lucas Foletta, will be paid $89,993, which is more than $30,000 less than the $120,000 Gibbons paid his general counsel, Chris Nielsen, in 2009.

Press Secretary Mary-Sarah Kinner will be paid $74,980, well below the $109,996 salary Gibbons paid his communication director, Daniel Burns.

Deputy Chief of Staff Ann Wilkinson will be paid $103,815, about $24,000 less than what Gibbons paid his deputy chief of staff, Mendy Elliott.

Gibbons came under fire for substantially increasing pay levels for some of his staff over what had been recommended by legislators. He defended the move, contending the increased salaries were for the additional duties required of his staff.

Overall, Gibbons said total salaries for his office were down by 11 percent because five fewer people were working than the 16 authorized by the Legislature.

Gansert and all other Sandoval employees also must return 4.6 percent of their pay to the state. That is the equivalent to the one unpaid furlough day per month that most state employees must take.

Sandoval said last week that he would return 4.6 percent of his $141,000 salary to the state, bringing his pay down to $134,514 a year, in a show of solidarity with state employees.

He added that he will not take a 6 percent pay increase that he legally is entitled to receive this year.

Under law, Sandoval and other constitutional officers elected or re-elected in November can take a 6 percent pay increase. State workers received a 2 percent pay increase in 2007 and a 4 percent increase in 2008. Constitutional officers now are entitled to the same rate of increase.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Treasurer Kate Marshall and Secretary of State Ross Miller have said they will not take the 6 percent raise.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and state Controller Kim Wallin are taking the raise, but they said they will return to the state whatever salary reductions are approved by the 2011 Legislature.

Masto’s pay will increase to $140,980 with the 6 percent increase, while Wallin will receive $102,890. Miller and Marshall could receive the same amount as Wallin if they took the increase. Otherwise, they will be paid $97,000.

The lieutenant governor’s position is considered part time. Krolicki is paid $60,000 annually and is eligible for an increase to $63,684.

"I am not doing anything different than state employees," Wallin said. "It is the fair thing to do."

"Catherine is going to take the same salary cuts as state employees," added Edie Cartwright, Masto’s spokeswoman.

The new governor has not announced yet whether he will ask the Legislature to continue the furlough day mandate for state employees in the two-year budget proposal he will release Jan. 24.

But Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval’s senior adviser, said last week that Sandoval’s budget will include some sort of furlough plan or calls for straight salary reductions — meaning employee pay might be reduced and they still would have to work 40-hour weeks with no furlough days.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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