Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk expressed what he called "reservations" Wednesday about the size of pay increases that Gov. Mark Dayton, his fellow DFLer, recently granted to his state agency commissioners.
"I share the concern to retain and recruit exceptional talent for our state workforce, and while these increases may be warranted, I would prefer an incremental and measured implementation," Bakk said in a prepared statement.
For several days Bakk, DFL-Cook, had declined comment on the brewing dispute between Dayton and House Republicans over the governor's move to boost pay for commissioners by a total of about $800,000 a year, with some commissioners seeing their yearly salary raised by $35,000. But Senate Democrats discussed the raises at a caucus meeting late Wednesday night, after which Bakk released his statement to reporters.
Bakk said he agrees with Dayton that "state salaries should be more proportionate to the private sector pay scale. However, while I respect the Governor's discretion granted by Article III of the Minnesota Constitution, I have reservations about the size of the commissioner's salary increases."
The pay fight is likely to come up on the Senate floor Thursday during a planned debate over a stopgap spending bill. In the House, Republicans attached a provision to their own version of that bill that tries to block Dayton's raises from several of the commissioners. However, it's far from certain that legislators have the authority to undo Dayton's raises.
Dayton and House Republicans have traded jabs over the pay boosts in recent days. While Republicans have called them excessive, Dayton accused Republicans of hypocrisy by noting that a handful of state House employees at similar pay levels have also received recent raises.