Two Maine lawmakers are launching a bipartisan push to increase the governor’s pay, the latest in a long series of attempts to raise the lowest gubernatorial salary in the nation.

Maine’s governor makes $70,000 a year, a salary that hasn’t budged in 36 years. Both Republicans and Democrats have pushed for increases in the past, but those efforts have died in committee.

This session, Rep. William Bridgeo, D-Augusta, is teaming with Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, on a bill to pay the governor $125,000.

The Maine Constitution would prevent such a salary increase from immediately applying to the sitting governor’s salary, so the proposed increase would not take effect until a new governor takes office in 2027.

“I think it makes sense,” Bridgeo said. “It’s no big deal. We’re responsible for setting the salary for the governor’s office and we should take that seriously. We should want to encourage good folks to run for the job and not limit the pool artificially by a ridiculously low salary.”

Bridgeo said he’s long been bothered by the low salary. He originally wanted to increase it to the average of Vermont and New Hampshire, which would have been about $165,000, but changed his mind after speaking with Millett.


“I know when to stick out my hand and say we have a deal,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said he didn’t have a position on the proposal. House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, appeared open to the idea, saying 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.”

Spokespeople for Gov. Janet Mills, who is term-limited from running for reelection, did not respond to questions about the governor’s view of the salary for her job and whether she supports increasing it for the next governor. Mills earned $125,000 as attorney general before she was elected – and took a big pay cut – in 2018.

As governor, Mills oversees an annual state budget of $9.4 billion and the equivalent of about 13,000 full-time state workers.

The governor hires the top executives who run the state agencies providing services from law enforcement and emergency response to social services and environmental protection. She sets the policy priorities for state government, has the power to issue executive orders and can decide which bills become law. It’s a job that comes with free government housing and publicly funded door-to-door transportation, but it also comes with weighty responsibilities, especially during emergencies like the pandemic.


A special state commission that studied compensation for the governor, lawmakers and judicial employees in 2019 said Maine’s governorship comes with more power than many other states, because Maine lacks a lieutenant governor to share executive power and responsibilities.

The salary proposed by Bridgeo and Millett is lower than the one recommended by the special state commission that studied compensation back in 2020. That commission called Maine’s $70,000 salary “embarrassingly low” and recommended nearly doubling it to $135,000.

The bill also would increase the next governor’s nontaxable expense account by $10,000 to $40,000. 

Mark Brewer, chair of the political science department at the University of Maine Orono, said raising pay is a politically fraught issue.

“Politicians are reluctant to raise public officials’ salaries, especially their own but also for other office holders, due to fear of blowback from constituents and criticism from opponents in future elections,” he said. “That being said, the Maine governor salary is indeed ridiculously low and absolutely should be increased significantly.”

Maine’s governor is the nation’s lowest paid by a wide margin. Colorado’s governor is the next lowest paid, at $92,700, followed by Arizona’s governor, at $95,000, according to the Council of State Governments.


Governors in other New England states earned at least twice as much as Maine’s governor in 2021: $143,704 in New Hampshire, $184,100 in Vermont, $185,000 in Massachusetts, $150,000 in Connecticut and $147,755 in Rhode Island, according to the council. New York’s governor is the nation’s highest paid and made $225,000 in 2021.

Maine’s governor’s salary was last increased in 1987. If it had kept pace with inflation, it would now be above $188,000.

More than 2,400 Maine state employees earned more than their governor in 2021, according to state payroll records. That includes all the commissioners who work at the governor’s pleasure. Most of those department heads earn between $145,000 and $188,000. The governor’s two-person communications and media staff made $117,720 and $99,000 that year.

Matthew Davis, clinical director of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, was the state’s highest-paid employee, earning $320,000, followed by Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum, who earned $299,000. Maine Supreme Judicial Court judges earned about $150,000.

At least five bills to increase the governor’s salary were filed in the past three Legislatures. All of them were unanimously killed in committee.

John Martin, a retired state lawmaker and an influential longtime House speaker, tried twice in the last three legislative sessions to raise the pay.


The Democrat from Eagle Lake sponsored a bill in 2018 on behalf of former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who once likened being governor in Maine to taking a vow of poverty. “I feel like a priest or a nun, you know,” LePage said in 2017.

Martin’s bill would have increased the governor’s salary to $150,000 and also raised meal and lodging stipends for lawmakers. It would have left the governor’s nontaxable expense account intact.

Martin offered the same bill the following year, this time increasing mileage reimbursements to sweeten the deal for lawmakers.

Neither bill made it out of committee for reasons that aren’t clear.

“I don’t know,” Martin said last week. “Some people sit there and they vote. No comment.”

Ned Claxton, a former Democratic senator who chaired the State and Local Government Committee when it voted against those bills, said lawmakers generally opposed increasing the governor’s salary without also raising their own. But lawmakers were equally concerned about how voting to raise their own pay would be received by the public.


“The voting public wouldn’t support that move,” Claxton said last week of lawmakers’ concerns at the time. “It’s going to be hard to get the requisite number of people to support it partly because of the political look.”

Some lawmakers have proposed bills to increase legislative salaries as well. The Legislature has already enacted an emergency law this session increasing members’ reimbursement rates for mileage, lodging and food. That law, signed by Mills on Feb. 13,  did not include any change to the governor’s expense account or reimbursement rate.

Bridgeo said he hopes lawmakers will agree this year that the time is right to at least boost the pay of the state’s top executive.

“Nobody knows who the next governor will be,” he said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything extreme. I don’t think every 40 years is too often to make adjustments to the salary.”

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