May 15, 2023 - Politics

Oregon's statewide elected officials earn less than their staff

Data: Oregon Open Data Portal; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Oregon Open Data Portal; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

In the one week that Oregon's Acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers has been on the job, she earned $4,580 — three times the amount that Shemia Fagan made in her last week as secretary of state.

Why it matters: The scandal that led to Fagan's resignation highlighted, among other things, the fact that elected state leaders in Oregon often earn much less than their staff.

Context: Fagan stepped down May 8 after an outcry over her moonlighting as a $10,000-per-month consultant for a cannabis company.

By the numbers: By law, Oregon's Secretary of State earns $77,000 a year, plus a $250 monthly stipend for "expenses necessarily incurred but not otherwise provided for." That hasn't changed since 2014.

  • This puts the secretary in the bottom third of full-time staff in that office, according to 2022 data.
  • The top earner there — Myers — is currently paid $238,164.

Of note: Although Myers has stepped in as acting secretary, she remains "from a legal and job classification standpoint" the deputy secretary of state, so her pay remains the same, communications director Ben Morris told Axios.

The big picture: This is the norm in Oregon. Salaries of the governor, attorney general, treasurer and labor commissioner are all set by law.

  • The governor's salary of $98,600 put her among the mid-range earners in her office, according to 2022 data.
  • The attorney general's salary of $82,200 was 2.9 times lower than the top earner in her office.

Yes but: Fagan's resignation may reignite proposals for an independent commission to set salaries for Oregon's elected officials.

Zoom out: Compared to other states, Oregon trails in paying elected officials.

  • In 2022, Oregon ranked 47th in salary for governor.
  • Oregon's attorney general is the lowest-paid in the country.
  • Oregon's secretary of state earns slightly over half of the same office in Washington, and Washington's is due to get a raise in July.

What we're watching: Whom Gov. Tina Kotek will appoint as secretary of state to serve out the remaining 18 months of Fagan's term.

  • The governor is waiting until after Tuesday's election to announce her choice.

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