Four members of Robert Bentley staff get $73,000 raises despite lawmaker disapproval

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Some legislators are criticizing Gov. Robert Bentley for raising salaries of his Cabinet members and staff, some by double-digit percentage increases.

The sponsor of 2015 legislation that allowed the raises by abolishing old Cabinet salary caps called the size of the raises “indefensible” and said they were not what lawmakers had in mind when they approved the bill.

“It’s outrageous,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said in an interview

Although many Cabinet members are making more money this year, four received raises of about $70,000, according to state pay records.

The salaries of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling increased from $91,014 to about $164,000. The pay increases were first reported Monday by the blog Inside Alabama Politics.

The law abolished old salary caps — largely considered outdated— and said Cabinet salaries should fall under a pay scale established by the Alabama Department of Personnel. The pay scale was created in August.

Bentley, in a statement, said he would make “no apology” for the raises, saying they will help recruit and retain highly qualified people to run vital agencies.

“This legislation was long overdue, and allows state government to be competitive with the private sector in getting highly qualified people to run important state agencies that provide vital services to our citizens. I make no apology for the salary increase for my Cabinet and staff. I appreciate their outstanding service to the people of our state,” Bentley said.

Orr said lawmakers envisioned incremental increases at the lower end of the newly created pay scale.

“It’s outrageous how high and how out of kilter we are now,” Orr said.

For years it was not uncommon for governors to use personnel gymnastics to get around the salary cap for people who would supervise the largest state agencies. The acting director of transportation, for example, had been paid through the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency payroll.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press

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