RICHMOND, NOV. 26 -- Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, looking for new ways to ease the pain of Virginia's budget crunch, asked the state's 340 judges today to forgo a 2 percent pay raise scheduled to go into effect Saturday.
And to show that he is a team player, Wilder announced that he will cut his own $108,000-a-year salary by 2 percent on that same date.
If the judges go along, the state would save $1.2 million between Dec. 1 and the end of the two-year budget cycle on June 30, 1992.
Wilder's largely symbolic giveback would save the state $3,420.
Neither the judges nor the governor are covered by cuts previously announced by Wilder.
In September, Wilder announced that 80,000 state workers would not get the second step of a previously agreed upon pay raise, also scheduled to go into effect Saturday, a move that saved $142 million. State workers got a 3 percent pay raise in July.
The state's 60,000 teachers, whose salaries are paid by local governments, have not yet been affected by the economic downturn, but they could face a salary freeze next fall because the state has reduced its aid to local schools.
In a letter to Chief Justice Harry L. Carrico, Wilder asked that judges join other state employees "in sharing the burden" of the economic slowdown, which has caused Wilder to trim more than $1.3 billion from the current biennial budget.
Wilder said residents of the state "will have a difficult time understanding why judges receive pay increases while other employees, such as health care workers and law enforcement officers, do not."
"I wouldn't understand" either, Wilder added.
Carrico, the state's highest-paid judge, was scheduled to get a $2,085 pay raise on top of his current annual salary of $104,217.
The 192 district court judges, who are paid $81,674, are scheduled to get a $1,634 pay raise. The 131 circuit court judges would get $1,815 atop their $90,749 salaries.
Wilder said he expected Carrico and a panel of veteran judges to recommend that all of the state's judges either comply with or reject the governor's recommendation. Wilder said he did not expect individual judges to decide independently whether to give up the raise.
However, Carrico later released a memo he sent to judges that indicated it would be up to each judge to decide whether to forgo the money. He said the Supreme Court's executive secretary is "researching the rather complicated tax, insurance, retirement and accounting consequences" of the governor's recommendation.
Wilder also is asking the half-dozen commissioners of the quasi-independent Corporation and Industrial commissions to forgo 2 percent pay raises.
Chairman William E. O'Neill of the Industrial Commission said he and his fellow commissioners, who are paid the same as circuit court judges, already had decided to forgo salary increases.
"It certainly wouldn't look very good" if the commissioners got a raise and their employees didn't, said O'Neill, whose agency oversees workers' compensation claims.
State agencies, which already have had to cut their budget requests between 5 percent and 10 percent, have been told to brace for more cuts, as much as 7.5 percent in the next 1 1/2 years, if a revised state economic forecast, scheduled for Dec. 17, continues to show a slide.