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Iowa Watchdog

Iowa could buy two governors for the price of one Branstad


DES MOINES – Want to know what Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s $130,000 yearly salary gets in other states?

The Hawkeye State could afford nearly two governors in Maine, which pays Republican Gov. Paul LePage an annual $70,000, the lowest in the nation. Add in Branstad’s more than $50,000 per year annuity (from his last stint as governor) and he passes Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, as the nation’s highest paid state leader.

Gov. Terry Branstad brings in $130,000 a year in salary; a figure that doesn’t include other perks.

Gov. Terry Branstad brings in $130,000 a year in salary; a figure that doesn’t include other perks.

The salaries, among newly released figures from the Council of State Governments, show Corbett makes $175,000 a year after refusing to accept a cost of living increase that would have brought his yearly salary to $187,256. Branstad, on the other hand, refused to take a pay cut in 2011 to help offset Iowa’s deficit, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan website aimed at increasing transparency in government.

In addition to his yearly salary, Branstad, a Republican, lives free of cost at Terrace Hill, receives a yearly pension contribution of more than $11,200 and has state health insurance. The state fully covered the cost until recently when Branstad announced he would contribute 20 percent of the cost in hopes of urging state workers to do the same.


It’s unclear how much the state currently contributes, because officials with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services failed to provide the information.

Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Branstad, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Surrounding states generally paid their governors less than Iowa. Minnesota pays Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton $120,300, while Nebraska’s Dave Heineman, a Republican, earns $105,000 a year. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard takes home nearly $101,000. Missouri was the only similar neighboring state to pay its governor more than Iowa. Gov. Jay Nixon  earns $133,821 a year, according to the Council of State Governments.

The average annual salary for governors is $133,348, the group reported.

Iowa hasn’t given its governor a raise or cut in pay in at least five years. That compares to seven states that gave average raises in 2013 of $4,111. Three others cut the pay of their top leaders in 2010, although it wasn’t clear by how much, according to the report.

One last fun fact: governors in Florida, Tennessee and Alabama do not receive salaries. Michigan Gov. Rick Synder, a Republican and venture capitalist, gives all but a dollar of his salary back to the state.

Contact Sheena Dooley at dooley@iowawatchdog.org. Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for Watchdog.org, where this story first appeared.

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