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Minnesota commissioners get richer, but not CEO rich

Senate Minority Leader David Hann called Governor Dayton's commissioner raises exorbitant. But House Republicans signed off on the deal.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann called Governor Dayton's commissioner raises exorbitant. But House Republicans signed off on the deal.

Minnesota Republicans are loading their rhetorical guns after Gov. Mark Dayton announced he's giving his state commissioners whopping pay raises. The hikes are prime campaign diss fodder, so Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) didn't waste any time spraying the room with criticism. 

“These are the same people that go on and on about the exorbitant pay of CEOs,” Hann said at a Tuesday press conference. “Why would the governor give his commissioners such exorbitant pay increases?”

Exorbitant? Maybe. Most of the pay bumps range between $25,000 and $35,500 — far above what public employee union members will get from their latest contract. On the top end, the raises alone amount to 78 percent of what the average Minnesota worker pulls down a year. Metro Council Chair Adam Duininck, who's married to Dayton's chief of staff, will more than double his salary to $144,991 as the position will now be considered full-time.

Although Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) argues Minnesota's agency bosses will now make more than their peers in other states, a study found their salaries were up to 69 percent less than those of similar private-sector jobs.

In 2015, top officials will earn nearly $155,000, which might be enough to keep a Beamer in the garage and a boat on the dock. But it's not like they're banking CEO money.

According to a study by the AFL-CIO, the average Minnesota CEO for a publicly traded S&P 500 company makes nearly $10 million more than the 28 commissioners and department heads combined. Joe CEO raked in an average of $13.9 million in 2014, while the average commissioner pay is $148,000. Target's Brian Cornell, the state's biggest corporate baller, earned $28 million last year – more than 180 times what top-paid Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will make.

Of course being a state commissioner isn't the same as running a bazillion-dollar corporation. While Jesson's department has a two-year budget of roughly $11 billion, Cornell the check casher oversees $72.6 billion in annual revenues, with about 1 percent of company profits going toward his compensation.

While Republicans have ripped the pay increases Dayton's planned for months, it's worth recalling that the GOP-run House knowingly voted (by a 108-20 margin) to allow him to do so. But sometimes plausible deniability is all one needs heading into the next election cycle.

Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.