A day after their reelection, six “Republican” South Carolina elected officials were given massive salary increases by a GOP-controlled legislative panel – with some of the officeholders set to receive more than double their previous salaries.
It it a scandal?
It would be … until you consider most of these elected officials were not even in office when the salaries of their positions were frozen by the state more than a quarter of a century ago.
First, let’s look at the breakdown of the salary increases for six of the state’s eight independently elected constitutional offices – agriculture commissioner, attorney general, comptroller general, secretary of state, superintendent of education and state treasurer – approved by the S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission (SCAHSC) this week.
|Old Salary||New Salary||Percent Increase|
|Agriculture Commissioner||$92,007||$162,000||76.1 percent|
|Attorney General||$92,007||$208,000||126.1 percent|
|Comptroller General||$92,007||$151,000||64.1 percent|
|Secretary of State||$92,007||$135,000||46.7 percent|
|Superintendent of Education||$92,007||$214,000||132.6 percent|
|State Treasurer||$92,007||$164,000||78.2 percent|
(Via: S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission)
Outrageous, right? Yes and no …
Some history: In 1990, lawmakers approved a bill which set salaries for these offices at $85,000 per year (or approximately $181,200 in current dollars). These salaries were set to increase by two percent on July 1, 1991 – and by the same amount each year through July 1, 1994.
Which they did …
Once they hit $92,007 in 1994 – an amount equivalent to $180,240 in current dollars – they froze. And have remained frozen ever since.
As a result, the state’s top prosecutor – attorney general Alan Wilson – is currently making tens of thousands of dollars less per year than the state’s sixteen locally elected solicitors. Meanwhile, the next state superintendent of education – Ellen Weaver – was in line to make less than each of the state’s eighty-plus local superintendents.
Last May, state lawmakers passed a bill (Act 76 of 2021) which mandated that salaries for the offices listed above be set by the legislature based on recommendations from the SCAHSC beginning in the current fiscal year (which began on July 1). The law further required “a study be conducted every four years to recommend a salary range for each state constitutional officer, with the exception of the governor and lieutenant governor, based on their job duties and responsibilities as well as the pay of state constitutional officers in other states.”
Regular readers of this news outlet know I am a hardcore fiscal conservative who loathes excessive salaries for bureaucrats – especially when those bureaucratic posts are superfluous, duplicative or do not involve the performance of a core function of government.
In this case, however, several of these raises are clearly long overdue – especially the pay hikes for Wilson and state treasurer Curtis Loftis.
South Carolina has an antiquated system of government in desperate need of reform, restructuring and modernization – and its current configuration of constitutional offices must be included in that reinvention. I would have preferred these salary increases wait for that reinvention to take effect, but I do not think they are anything to get one’s panties in a twist over.
Eventually, though, South Carolina’s “Republican” supermajority needs to figure out its 1895 government structure is simply not cutting it in 2022 – and that legislative interference in the executive and judicial branches of government are holding the state back on multiple fronts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has lots of hats – including that Indianapolis Colts’ greyscale lid pictured above.
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