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Dayton pushes ahead with commissioner pay hikes – 11 will earn over $150K

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Gov. Mark Dayton confirmed that pay for state agency commissioners will go up by as much as $35,475 – with 11 now earning more than $150,000 a year.

Dayton's plan for the pay increases caused an uproar earlier this year, leading to objections from GOP lawmakers and an unlikely rebellion from Senate leader Tom Bakk along with other DFL lawmakers.

It prompted action that means any future changes to commissioner pay will have to be met with legislative approval, and is no longer at the discretion of the governor – starting from July 2, 2015 on.

This meant Wednesday was the last chance Dayton got to implement his own raises without interference, and he made few changes to the proposals he put forward in January.

Previously, the commissioners' pay ranged from $88,455 to $143,281. Now it will be between $115,998 and $154,992, according to KSTP's Tom Hauser.

You can see a full list of the figures here, courtesy of the Pioneer Press.

Eleven commissioners will be paid more than $150,000, while six will get the highest amount of $154,992. These include the heads of the state's natural resources, revenue, public safety, human services, management and budget, and transportation agencies.

Despite the furor his proposals caused in January, Dayton was unrepentant for the pay levels he backed on Wednesday.

"The salaries of high-level public officials are convenient targets for anti-government partisans, who don't understand the sophisticated administrative skills required to provide quality government services and care even less," he wrote in a letter to legislators, according to the Star Tribune.

Dayton has argued good salaries are necessary to attract – and keep – the best public officials. They then "provide taxpayers with improved services, greater efficiencies, and new innovations, which are worth many times the cost of of their salaries," he added.

Brian Bakst, of The Associated Press, says two of the changes made from January include increasing the proposed pay of five Public Utilities Commission commissioners to $140,000, compared to $125,000 in the initial plan, while the Human Rights commissioner will now earn $145,000 instead of the $140,000 previously proposed.

But GOP House speaker Kurt Daudt said Dayton was "more out of touch with Minnesotans' than he thought by authorizing the pay raises, according to KSTP, which said a survey it conducted in February found 70 percent of Minnesotans were against the increases.

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