Amid much bickering, the Maryland House of Delegates signed off Tuesday on a resolution raising judges’ salaries by about $14,000 over three years, starting in fiscal 2014. The pay raise received approval in the Senate last week.
The increase will cost the state about $6.8 million, according to legislative analysts. The chief judge on the Court of Appeals will see an increase from $181,000 to $195,000 by 2016. District Court judges’ salaries will go from $127,000 to $141,000.
The Judicial Compensation Commission — tasked with making recommendations on judicial salaries and pensions — had proposed increasing judges’ salaries twice as much, by about $29,000 over three years. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle found this sum outrageous given the state’s $1-billion budget shortfall, and the Senate voted to cut it in half.
But that was still too much for House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert), who offered amendments Monday and Tuesday to keep the salaries constant or cut raises down to a 1-percent annual increase over three years.
The amendments were defeated, even though both Republicans and Democrats expressed unhappiness with the pay raise. “I’m very much opposed to this raise,” said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery). “I sat on the committee, I heard the hearing. I didn’t think that the judges did what they needed to do to make the case to get this raise.”
But Mizeur and others argued that sending an amended resolution back to the Senate would be a “gamble.” The two bodies faced a deadline of Thursday to agree on changes, or the pay raise as originally proposed by the commission would have gone into effect automatically, costing the state twice as much.