The governor of a state is essentially that state’s president, making some of the toughest decisions that pertain to the laws and day-to-day workings. It can also be a thankless job as you come into it with almost half of the people in that state not wanting you there in the first place, but in most states, the pay is at least pretty good.
Then, there are a handful of states in which the governor is barely making above the national average. These elected officials aren’t held to the same standards as federal politicians in terms of pay, and it’s up to the people leading these states to increase their salaries. Here are the five states who pay their governors the least amount of money for one reason or another.
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wyoming has one of the lowest salaries for a governor as it has the lowest population for any state despite its massive land area. There are fewer than 600,000 people living in Wyoming, which makes it smaller (by population) than even Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Nebraska is a more interesting case as the state doesn’t have a large population, but it’s still the 38th largest state in the country. The short answer is that the state has never given a large salary to any government employees, as even state senators were only given $12,000 per year for decades. The governors from both states just barely make six figures at $105,000 each, making them unattractive jobs compared to that of a U.S. Senator or Representative.
While Wyoming and Nebraska probably aren’t the biggest shockers on the list, we now start getting to a few which are downright stunning. The first of these is Oregon, which ranks right in the middle of the pack in terms of population. With more than 4.2 million residents, Oregon may be the least-populated west coast state, but that’s still a lot of people for the governor to represent for such a low salary.
Oregon has done well with boosting employee salaries overall, but the topic of the governor’s salary really hasn’t been a hot-button topic. Perhaps the state has been more concerned about the common citizen’s wage that it hasn’t seemed important, which would be a better reason than many of the other states.
The most-populated state that appears on this list (and it’s not very close) is Arizona, which is close to the top 10 in terms of the total population at over 7.3 million people. That’s more than states which include Tennessee and Massachusetts, while on par with Washington. However, those three states have governors who are making much more money.
Arizona is another one of those cases where the governor’s salary has been talked about but simply hasn’t changed with the rest of the country’s state leaders. Former governor Richard Lamm said that “Colorado should be embarrassed…this is going to become a rich person’s sport,” when discussing the governor’s salary.
Yet another surprise on the list, Colorado is near the top 20 in terms of the total population with more than 5.8 million people, and it’s a number that continues to rise as it becomes a haven for younger Americans. Colorado is about the same size as Wisconsin and Minnesota in terms of population, while also being much larger than states like Delaware and Nevada which have much higher-paid governors.
Colorado has the highest-paid governor…for states that pay their governors just five figures. While the overall salary for employees within the state has been ahead of the curve compared to the national average, the governor’s salary has remained stagnant for a very long time. The increases in salary have all been slight thus far.
After all of the unexpected states on the list, it probably doesn’t come as much of a curveball to see that Maine is at the top (or in this case, bottom) of the list. Maine is one of the least-populated states in the country, and actually has fewer people than New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Idaho. Maine ranks 43rd, while their governor ranks dead last in terms of salary.
There have been several bills introduced that would try to raise the Maine governor’s salary, but it has never come to fruition. Instead, the governor has only been getting $70,000 for years, which is more than $20,000 less than any other state in the country. So what’s the holdup? Well, the governor’s salary can’t increase while in office, and it seems that stubbornness has prevented governor’s from increasing the salary for the next person.