Stateline Story

Governors' Paychecks Vary Widely

  • January 23, 2001
  • By Tiffany Danitz

In his new job as President of the United States, George W. Bush will earn $400,000 per annum -- a pay raise of more than 300 percent. As Texas governor, Bush got $116,545 per year, the 18th highest state executive's salary, and he was docked $316.01 every day he spent on the campaign trail trying to win the White House.

Bush isn't the only chief executive getting a pay hike in 2001. Nearly half the governors got pay raises this year and many also enjoy generous perks, including lodging and transportation.

New York Gov. George Pataki is the highest paid governor in the nation with a salary of $179,000, California Gov. Gray Davis is second at $157,143, Michigan's John Engler follows at $151,245, Illinois Gov. George Ryan is fourth with $145,877 and Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania rounds out the top five. He gets $138,270.

New York, California, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania, also boast the highest salaries for their legislators. (Stateline.org looks at legislative salaries on Thursday, 1/25/01.)

The lowest-paid governor in the country is Mike Johanns of Nebraska, whose salary is $65,000 a year. Arkansas, with a governor's salary of $69,920, is next lowest in terms of stinginess followed by Maine, Connecticut and Montana. Those three states pay their governors $70,000, $78,000 and $81,459 respectively.

Bush's new salary is twice what Bill Clinton and Bush's father earned while serving in the Oval Office. In a little-noticed action, Congress last year voted to hike presidential pay for the first time since 1969 when Nixon was President. The new pay for the chief executive rose from $200,000 to $400,000. The president also gets an official expense account of $50,000 and housing for himself and his family at the White House and the presidential hideaway at Camp David in Maryland.

In addition, the president has at his beck and call a fleet of airplanes all known as Air Force One, as well as helicopters and armored limousines. In the bill raising the president's salary, Congress specified an overall annual budget for the Executive Office of the President of $52,135,000. But many of the travel and other expenses associated with the presidency are charged to the Pentagon and other federal agencies.

The compensation of U.S. leaders can be a touchy issue politically. The New Jersey Legislature voted in 1998 to raise the governor's salary from $85,000 to $130,000, starting in 1999. But Christie Todd Whitman, the Garden State's departing top official, until recently refused to accept the raise for reasons of "austerity," according to her spokesperson.

Whitman finally relented this month and agreed to take the pay raise to avoid putting her successor on the spot if she is confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Bush Administration.

Until this year, New Jersey's governor's salary ranked sixth among the states, but the state of Washington now holds that distinction, thanks to a boost in Gov. Gary Locke's paycheck from $121,000 to $135,960. He is followed by the governors of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia.

In addition to salaries and expense accounts, 42 of the governors have access to a state airplane. The eight states which do not offer that official perk are Arkansas, Alaska, Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont.

The governors of 46 states are entitled to reside in an official residence. The only states which do not have governor's mansions are Arizona, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Following is a complete listing of governor's salaries. The 2001 figures were compiled by Stateline.org. The 1999 salary levels, listed here for comparison purposes, were compiled by the Council of State Governments.

State 2001 Salary 1999 Salary
New York $179,000 $179,000
California $157,143 $141,936
Michigan $151,245 $138,757
Illinois $145,877 $132,867
Pennsylvania $138,270 $132,426
Washington $135,960 $121,00
Massachusetts $135,000 $90,000
New Jersey $130,000 $130,000
Ohio $126,496.81 $119,235
Virginia $124,855 $124,855
Georgia $122,998 $111,480
Minnesota $120,303 $120,303
Florida $120,171 114,047
Maryland $120,000 $120,000
Missouri $119,982 $112,755
North Carolina $118,430 $113,656
Nevada $117,000 $117,000
Texas $116,545 $115,345
Wisconsin $115,252 101,860
Delaware $114,000 $107,000
South Carolina $106,078 $106,078
Iowa $103,000 $104,352
Mississippi $101,800 $101,800
Oklahoma $101,000 $101,040
Kentucky $99,657.12 $97,068
Idaho $98,500 $92,500
Utah $96,700 $93,000
Vermont $96,678.40 88,026
New Hampshire $96,061 $90,547
Arizona $95,000 $95,000
Indiana $95,000 $77,000
Louisiana $95,000 $95,000
Rhode Island $95,000 $95,000
Wyoming $95,000 $95,000
Hawaii $94,780 $94,780
Alabama $94,654 $94,666
Kansas $94,035 $91,742
South Dakota $92,601 $89,898
Colorado $90,000 $90,000
West Virginia $90,000 $90,000
New Mexico $90,000 $90,000
Oregon $86,000 $88,300
Tennessee $85,000 $85,000
North Dakota $83,013 $76,879
Alaska $81,648 $81,648
Montana $81,459 $83,672
Connecticut $78,000 $78,000
Maine $70,000 $70,000
Arkansas $69,920 $68,448
Nebraska