AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has approved pay raises ranging from 7.9 percent to 23 percent for most of the top administrators in state government.

Eleven of the 12 commissioners in LePage’s Cabinet will be paid $127,878 a year under a financial order that LePage issued July 7. The sole exception is Department of Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin, who is serving on an interim basis until the state finds a permanent commissioner.

The commissioners were among 49 top managers whose salaries were increased by the governor as part of an effort approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2014 to achieve pay parity among top legislative staff and executive branch managers.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who made $118,531 in 2014, according to state payroll data from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, will get a 7.9 percent raise, the lowest among the top administrators.

From there the percentage increases range upward, to a high of 23.3 percent for Department of Administrative and Financial Services Commissioner Richard Rosen, who was paid $103,671 in 2014, according to the state payroll data.

Rosen’s salary includes pay for two positions within the administration. He began the year as director of the Office of Policy and Management and was promoted midway through the year to commissioner of DAFS.

LePage also has given pay raises to deputy commissioners and directors within the executive branch, as well as other high-level managers.

For example, Sam Adolphsen, who transitioned from the deputy finance commissioner at DHHS to become the chief operating officer in 2014, earned about $88,000 last year, according to state salary data provided to the Portland Press Herald. Adolphsen now will earn over $100,000. Michael Allen, the associate commissioner for tax policy, earned over $103,000 in 2014 and will now earn over $116,000.

The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party offered a stinging criticism of the governor’s action.

“Governor LePage continues to play politics and show favoritism to those that do his bidding,” Phil Bartlett said in an email Wednesday night. “After standing in the way of raises for other government employees in the Attorney General’s Office last year, he has no problem granting raises to those who agree with him. But we must congratulate these appointees on their raises, because everyone working for this governor is definitely underpaid for what they have to put up with.”

The raises come only weeks after a fierce State House battle over a $6.7 billion, two-year state budget that LePage strongly opposed, partly because it didn’t include the type of tax cuts he was seeking. During the budget debate, LePage criticized Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to embrace his policies, which include reining in state spending. The budget was approved when lawmakers overrode LePage’s veto.

The salary that LePage approved for his commissioners exceeds the $120,000 that his political rival, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, would have been paid as president of Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield. Eves didn’t get that job because Good Will-Hinckley, which operates a state-approved charter school, withdrew its offer last month after LePage threatened to withhold state funding and criticized Eves for his record of political opposition to charter schools.

“It is unfortunate for both Maine taxpayers and Maine students that the education system has become a soft-landing place for unqualified former Democratic politicians who seek exorbitant salaries, but bring no real skills or true leadership to the important public positions entrusted to them,” the governor wrote in a letter to the schools’ top directors.

The LePage administration says the pay increases awarded to top managers are designed to match salaries with comparable legislative positions. For example, the executive director of the Legislature earns $128,000 per year. LePage, who has said the state’s pay scale for top executives is too low to attract talented candidates, implemented the pay increase schedule in 2014, with legislative approval. His decision to do so briefly became an issue during his re-election campaign because he delayed granting pay increases the same year for several attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office.

The administration countered the criticism of that move with data showing that LePage Cabinet members and staff were paid less than those who held comparable positions in the Legislature’s offices. According to the administration, a salary survey of 15 states showed that only Montana paid Cabinet members less on average than Maine.

Below is a list what 11 of the commissioners, who now will be earning $127,878 a year, were paid in 2014. Not included is DesJardin, the interim Department of Education commissioner.

Mary Mayhew, Department of Health and Human Services, $118,531.

Richard Rosen, Department of Administrative and Financial Services: $103,671.

Walter Whitcomb, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: $112,259.

George Gervais, Department of Economic and Community Development: $106,319.

Patricia Aho, Department of Environmental Protection: $111,635.

Chandler Woodcock, Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife: $106,319.

Jeanne Paquette, Department of Labor: $111,635.

Patrick C. Keliher, Department of Marine Resources: $112,054.

Anne Head, Department of Professional and Financial Regulation: $107,255.

John Morris, Department of Public Safety: $111,635.

David Bernhardt, Department of Transportation: $107,158.

 


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