A North Dakota legislative panel voted to give state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt a larger raise Monday, a move that is expected to face some resistance when it goes before the full Legislature.
The House-Senate compromise budget bill would give Schmidt an 8% raise effective July 1, matching her salary with the state auditor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. Schmidt is currently the lowest-paid statewide elected official with an annual salary of $99,881.
The Senate had agreed to the raise earlier in the session, but the House voted to give her pay bumps of 2% and 2.5% percent in the next two-year budget cycle. That would match what state employees are receiving.
A 2011 legislative report showed the treasurer's pay matched that of the auditor, insurance commissioner, tax commissioner and others at the turn of the century but has since fallen behind. Schmidt is a Republican first elected in 2004.
"It brings her up to the level of the other constitutionally elected offices," said Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston, a member of the conference committee that approved the raise.
Bekkedahl said this session's news that millions of dollars in oil tax money had been misallocated didn't factor into legislators' decision-making about Schmidt's raise. Schmidt, whose office is responsible for distributing state funds, has maintained she was following legal advice on the allocations.
But the pay increase is expected to face some pushback. House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, questioned how lawmakers could justify giving Schmidt a larger bump than state workers.
Schmidt's office is the smallest agency headed by an elected official in North Dakota with just seven full-time equivalent positions and a two-year budget of more than $1.7 million. She is a member of several state panels, including the Land Board, which manages the state's trust land assets.
The Senate had also approved a higher salary for Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, but that was similarly reduced in the House. Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, said a conference committee debating that office's budget hasn't reached a decision on his salary.