GOP fights back after Dayton gives hefty pay raises to commissioners

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Republican lawmakers in Minnesota are pushing back against Gov. Dayton's decision to increase salaries for his cabinet members by up to $35,000 a year.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee Monday approved an amendment that would cut funding for several state agencies by the same amount that their commissioners are receiving in higher pay, MPR News reports.

The total amount of money is $40,000, a drop in the bucket compared to the agencies' multi-million dollar budgets. But the message the GOP lawmakers sent to Dayton, a DFLer, was loud and clear.

They called the salary increases luxurious, and said the size of them defied explanation, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Dayton has the authority to increase salaries of his commissioners without needing legislative approval, under a state law passed in 2013. So he gave 26 commissioners and agency heads raises ranging from $11,000 to $35,000 per year. The highest paid of them will earn nearly $155,000 per year.

In a letter he sent to legislative leaders Monday, Dayton said he took the action because commissioners' salaries have not gone up in 12 years, and the higher salaries are necessary to attract and keep talented people in state service, according to MPR News.

He also wrote that none of the commissioners have asked for a raise or complained about their salaries.

That didn't quiet Republican critics at the committee meeting Monday. The chairman, Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, was upset that legislators didn't hear about the raises until just a few days ago.

Another House committee will likely look at the issue later this week.

Some GOP lawmakers say they'll introduce a bill to reverse the effects of the 2013 law and require the Legislature to approve salaries for some commissioners, according to the Pioneer Press.

Dayton ended the letter by noting he also considers state legislators "woefully underpaid," and said would support raising their salaries to "more appropriate levels."

Most lawmakers earn $31,140 a year, and legislative leaders are paid $43,596, according to the Star Tribune.

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