After raises, will MN officials make more or less than those in nearby states?


You might have noticed, there's been a lot of controversy about Gov. Mark Dayton's decision to increase the pay of state commissioners by up to $35,000 a year.

The governor received heavy criticism from Republicans who say the increases "defy explanation."

But Dayton hit back, saying salaries have remained frozen for 12 years and a raises are needed so Minnesota can continue to attract high-quality managers.

So is the amount Minnesota will pay its state agency heads outrageous? Or in line with other nearby states?

What will Minnesota commissioners get?

We've taken the heads of four departments to use for a comparison: Health, education, transportation and agriculture. Under the proposals from Dayton, these commissioners will receive the following:

Health: Edward Ehlinger, $150,002 (up from $119,577).

Education: Brenda Cassellius $150,002 (up from $119,577).

Transportation: Charles Zelle, $154,992 (up from $119,577).

Agriculture: Dave Frederickson, $144,991 (up from $119,577).

Here's a chart that shows how those compare to other Midwest states – but keep reading after the graphic for more info.

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Wisconsin is a smaller state than Minnesota in terms of area, but has a slightly larger population. Figures from the Wisconsin State Journal show that in 2013 (the most recent figures available), agency heads were getting paid more than Minnesota's – but won't be after this last round of raises.

Health: Kitty Rhoades, $121,641. (-$28,361 less than Minnesota's new salary)

Education: Tony Evers, $120,202. (-$29,800)

Transportation: Mark Gottlieb, $125,094. (-$29,898)

Agriculture: Ben Brancel, $120,093. (-$24,898)


Smaller than Minnesota in both area and population (more than 2 million fewer residents), the Des Moines Register shows that pay for state executives varied in 2014, with a high salary for its transportation chief, but lower for the head of agriculture. That said, three out of four positions had higher pay than Minnesota's prior to this year.

Health: Gerd Clabaugh, $124,715. (-$25,287)

Education: Brad Buck, $121,153. (-$28,849)

Transportation: Paul Trombino, $147,014. (-$7,978)

Agriculture: William Northey, $103,239. (-$41,752)


Considered the center of the Midwest and anchored by Chicago, it is the fifth most populous state in the country with almost 13 million residents. The amount it pays its state directors, according to the State Journal-Register, are broadly in line with the amount commissioners will now get in Minnesota, with the exception of education.

Health: Lamar Hasbrouck, $150,228. (+$226)

Education: Christopher Koch, $203,445. (+$53,443)

Transportation: Ann Schneider (recently left position), $150,228. (-$4,764)

Agriculture: Robert Flider, $133,272. (-$11,719)

North Dakota

Home to fewer than 1 million people, oil-rich North Dakota's highest paid department head unsurprisingly is Lynn Helms, of the Department for Mineral Resources, who gets paid $189,000, according to the ND Government website. The state's health director also gets more than Minnesota's will, while the transportation director has similar pay.

Health: Terry Dwelle, $188,700. (+$38,698)

Education: Kirsten Baester, $110,192. (-$39,810)

Transportation: Grant Levi, $150,804. (-$4,188)

Agriculture: Doug Goehring, $99,435. (-$45,556)

What if the Minnesota commissioner salaries had increased by inflation?

As Governor Dayton has been pointing out, Minnesota's commissioners have not had a salary increase in 12 years – so do the increases he's implementing reflect the higher cost of living since that time?

To determine that, we will look at United States inflation data between 2003 and 2014.

According to Dayton, the salaries of the four Minnesota commissioners listed above have been frozen at $119,577 for the last 12 years.

If their salaries were to have increased every year in line with inflation, they would have risen to $157,211 by last year. All four commissioners would be paid more if their salaries matched the rise in prices seen since 2003.

The maximum a commissioner will get following Dayton's changes is actually less than that number however – $154,992

And what about average household income?

As we all know, the supposed recovery of the economy hasn't necessarily translated to wage growth, particularly in the years since the economic crisis.

So inflation is not the best indicator of what has happened to salaries as a whole.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that average household income in Minnesota rose from $52,823 in 2003 ,to $60,907 in 2013 – a rise of 15.3 percent. Using this figure, a commissioner's salary of $119,577 would only have grown to $137,872 – significantly less than Dayton's raises for these four commissioners.

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