RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory gave his cabinet secretaries pay hikes as large as $13,200, far more than anything afforded to typical state employees in recent years.
The Republican’s cabinet makes a combined $1.1 million – an 8 percent increase from his Democratic predecessor.
“I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments,” McCrory said in an interview.
GOP lawmakers changed state law last year to give the governor the power to determine cabinet salaries, a change from the previous year when all eight secretaries made $121,807, as set in state law. The additional money will come from other areas in the agency budgets.
The leaders at four state agencies – Aldona Wos, health and human services; Kieran Shanahan, public safety; Tony Tata, transportation; and Sharon Decker, commerce – now make $135,000, or 11 percent more.
Four other agency heads – John Skvarla, environment and natural resources; Lyons Gray, revenue; Bill Daughtridge, administration; and Susan Kluttz, cultural resources – saw their pay increase to $128,000, a 5 percent hike.
Wos declined her new salary, pledging to work for $1 a year. She is a former physician and prolific political donor, who served as ambassador to Estonia under former President George W. Bush.
Dana Cope, executive director at the State Employees Association of North Carolina, noted the disparity in the cabinet raises with the treatment of rank-and-file state employees, who received a 1.2 percent pay bump this year, the first in four years. The governor received the same salary increase to $141,265.
Cope said McCrory’s pay hikes suggest that all state employees are paid below private sector rates.
“The employees who work for those executives are also underpaid,” he said. “I hope this is a rising tide that will lift all boats, not just the one with the captain in it.”
In an interview, McCrory said he set two tiers of salary for his cabinet members based on the size of agency budgets.
He defended the increases against those who may say it questions his campaign pledge of fiscal restraint. He said his governor’s office budget “may end up being smaller” than former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.
Clay Pittman, spokesman for the N.C. Democratic Party, said the salary increases reflect a broader pattern.
“From the first executive order, it’s pretty clear what we are going to see is Pat McCrory giving himself more power and repaying favors to those who helped in the campaign,” Pittman said.
McCrory’s first executive order repealed a judicial nominating commission, returning the authority to pick judges to the governor’s office.
His cabinet includes a number of prominent campaign donors.