Bill to allow state officials to waive salaries waits in committee

 

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Throughout his campaign, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice vowed he would not take a salary if elected.

The only problem is he has to. Salaries of the governor and other elected state officials are set by state code.

The law was tweaked in 2009, increasing the salary of the governor to $150,000 a year. Salaries for the attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture and treasurer are $95,000 a year.

There is no provision in state code for an elected official to waive his or her salary.

But Justice wanted to do something about that. In the first days of the legislative session, Justice asked the Senate and House of Delegates to introduce bills that would allow elected state officials to voluntarily give up their salaries.

Identical bills in both the House and Senate would add a single sentence to the existing law saying that, despite what the code says, an elected official “may voluntarily waive the receipt of his or her salary for any calendar year.” “May” is an important legal term that means while elected officials don’t have to give up their pay, they could if they wanted to.

The bills were sent on to the House and Senate committees on the judiciary for consideration, then on to the House and Senate finance committees. Both bills remain in each chamber’s judiciary committee, where they have remained since being introduced.

“The governor has sent up more than two dozen bills, and they all will get due consideration in the Senate in proper time,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson. “All of them will receive their fair hearing in committees and be given the full opportunity to go through the entire process.”

Jared Hunt, spokesman for the House of Delegates, has said about 2,000 bills are introduced every legislative session. Sometimes it takes a while for a bill to be taken up, and some bills never make it out of committee.

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