These appointed members* of the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers would like Arizona taxpayers to pony up a $15,000 raise for those whose salaries have stagnated. That’s not an amount to be divided. That’s each. Yearly.
No, these benevolent commissioners are not talking about Arizona’s underpaid state legislators who earn $24,000 a year and haven’t had a raise in nearly 20 years. The last time the voters saw fit to give a modest pay increase to the people they entrust to write our laws was 1998.
The commission’s generosity, by way of their hands in our pockets and in a unanimous vote, is aimed at Arizona’s judiciary and is constructed to conveniently skirt voter approval. The recommendation has been sent to Gov. Ducey’s office for inclusion in his Jan. 15, 2016 budget proposal.
Don’t waste sympathy on the judges and justices whose last pay increase was in 2008. The daily reports that Arizona Supreme Court justices currently earn $155,000 a year. The chief justice makes $160,000 yearly. Court of Appeals judges currently make $150,000, and statewide Superior Court judges $145,000.
The judicial pay hike proposal carries an estimated price tag of $1.4 million. The cash strapped state would pick up half the cost of the increase for 14 counties, while Maricopa County taxpayers would be required to cover the full amount for its judges.
Though the judiciary claim to be outside of the political process, they are on the ballot for retention, and are included in the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan. Their compensation, retirement and benefits package is enviable.
Judges are not unwittingly plucked from the legal community and forced to serve in these posts. They apply for the positions, preparing lengthy applications and going through an interview process before an appointment commission and — if they’re lucky — with the governor, who makes the final selection.
Check out the Survey of Judicial Salaries compiled by the National Center for State Courts. There are two charts included. Rest assured none of the children of judges are eating gruel or going shoe-less.