Gov. Janet Mills speaks at her inauguration ceremony, Jan. 4 at the Civic Center in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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Once again lawmakers this year will consider legislation to increase the governor’s salary, which is the lowest in the country. Once again, lawmakers will likely reject this bill.

That is unfortunate. Politicians should not run for office to earn a big paycheck. But Maine’s $70,000 annual pay for the state’s chief executive is embarrassingly low and should be increased.

In 2019, a panel that reviewed the compensation of lawmakers, judges and the governor recommended that the governor’s salary be increased to $130,000 a year. It also recommended increases in pay for lawmakers and judges.

“With greater political polarization and increasingly critical attitudes toward the actions of government, serving in legislative, judicial and executive offices is harder than ever,” the committee wrote in its report. “Our elected officials and judges sacrifice their personal and family time, their privacy and opportunities for professional advancement and financial gain to serve. Demonstrating support and respect for those who serve in these positions is more important than ever.”

This conclusion remains valid.

No one should run for governor, or the Legislature, for the money. But, adequately compensating those who do can attract a larger pool of potential representatives, which will better serve all of Maine.

In February, lawmakers passed and the governor signed into law a bill to increase mileage, housing and meal reimbursements for lawmakers. Their salaries remain unchanged, although legislation has been introduced this year to raise them.

It’s past time to increase the governor’s compensation as well. The governor’s salary, which is unchanged since 1987, is the lowest, by far, in the country. The governor also has an unrestricted expense account of $30,000 a year. Added together, Maine’s governor is still paid less than most other governors.

The second worst paid governor is Colorado’s at $92,700 in 2021. The governor’s salary in New Hampshire was $143,704, and Vermont paid its chief executive $184,100 in 2021.

Two lawmakers — Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, and Rep. Bill Bridgeo, D-Augusta — have introduced legislation to raise the salary to $125,000. It would also increase the expense account, which is not taxable, to $40,000 a year. Millett is a former state finance commissioner and Bridgeo was the city manager of Augusta. If their bill were to pass, the increase would not take effect until a new governor takes office in January 2027 when Mills’ term ends.

“We’re responsible for setting the salary for the governor’s office, and we should take that seriously,” Bridgeo told the Portland Press Herald. “We should want to encourage good folks to run for the job and not limit the pool artificially by a ridiculously low salary.”

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, told the paper that low salaries for the governor and legislators limit who can afford to hold public office.

“I think in general the salary for governor and legislators is way too low,” Faulkingham said. “If we want a better representation of the public, we need to increase salaries so working-class people can serve in these positions. I’m not sure what that level needs to be, but certainly higher than the current rates. I look forward to seeing where the committee work leads on this issue.”

We do too, and we hope that lawmakers agree that a salary increase is in order.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...