Both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post discussed the issue of pay raises for Colorado’s executive branch, including Gov. Bill Owens, last week. The salaries of Colorado’s top elected officials, from the governor to the state treasurer, have not been increased since 1997, and The Post also wrote an editorial saying that the salaries should definitely be raised. I am inclined to agree, but not based on the numbers they put forth. That’s because their numbers aren’t correct.

The Denver Post story said that only six states pay their governor a lower salary than Colorado, and they offered up a box with these salary comparisons:

Salary Comparison of Neighboring Governors

New Mexico: $110,000
Wyoming: $105,000
Utah: $100,600
Kansas: $98,331
Arizona: $95,000
Colorado: $90,000
Nebraska: $85,000

The source of that information, said the story, is the Colorado Governor’s Office. Now, take a look at the salary comparison from the Rocky Mountain News:

The pay for governors in surrounding states:

New Mexico $110,000
Wyoming $105,000
Utah $104,100
Kansas $103,813
Nebraska $85,000

You’ll notice that the salaries listed for Utah and Kansas are not the same. So who is right?

The Rocky Mountain News

A quick Google search shows that Utah Governor John Huntsman, Jr. earns $104,100 per year, according to the text of a bill introduced this year in the Utah legislature that seeks to raise the Lt. Governor’s salary to 95% of what the governor earns.

Before we continue, let me digress:

I find this whole designation pretty hilarious. The Utah legislature is essentially defining the worth of the lt. governor is being 95% of one entire governor. I would personally think that a lt. governor is only worth about 80% of a full governor, given that nobody really knows what a lt. governor does. They should change the title to “Almost Governor” if they are going to go ahead and value the position as being only 5% less important than the governor.

Frankly, I think this makes the lt. governor position more appealing; you get 95% of the salary for doing probably half of the work.

Okay, back to the salary comparison. I couldn’t find anything online with a quick search, so I called the office of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and asked her press secretary how much her boss makes each year. The current salary for Gov. Sebelius is $103,813.06. Why they include the six cents is a question I cannot answer, but that’s what I was told, and the phone call took all of about 20 seconds. Even though that salary is higher than it is in Colorado, Sebelius is still underpaid in my opinion because she has to actually live in Kansas, but that’s another story altogether.

Furthermore, The Post editorial – which I agree with, mind you – says that members of congress earn $158,000 per year. That’s not true either, and a quick search of the U.S. House and Senate Web sites would confirm that members of congress earn $165,200 per year.

Maybe these are small things to quibble over, but I find it odd that facts that can be so easily checked were not by The Denver Post, whereas The Rocky Mountain News took the time to get it right. I also find it troubling that the Post just blindly used the Colorado Governor’s Office as their source for the information. When the governor’s office is trying to make the case that a salary increase is justified, you should certainly be checking the facts they feed you.

Ironically, that fact sheet listed two of the salaries as being much lower than they really are, so the Governor’s Office hurt their case by not doing correct research, but that’s no excuse for The Post not checking their facts.