The top three elected officials in the District would get $20,000 raises next year — their first pay increase in more than a decade — under new legislation set to be introduced.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) would see her salary go up to $220,000, while D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) would make $210,000.
All are up for reelection in November without serious challengers. The pay raises would take effect in January.
The mayor is already the eighth-highest-paid chief executive of a big city, according to Mendelson’s office.
Mendelson said that he is leading the effort to increase pay now because the mayor’s salary has remained the same since 2007, and because District law prevents mayoral pay increases from taking effect during a mayor’s current term. That means a city council could only vote for an increase for the next mayor.
If no increase is approved during this election cycle, the next opportunity to raise the mayor’s salary would be for the 2023 inauguration. The salaries of the council chairman and attorney general are automatically set by law to be $10,000 below the mayor’s salary.
“It’s overdue,” Mendelson said of the pay increases. “But they won’t be as much as they would have been if they were tied to inflation.”
Mendelson said he told Bowser but not Racine about the forthcoming legislation, which will be formally introduced by Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). The mayor and attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The legislation would make the D.C. mayor the fifth-highest paid — she would earn more than the chief executives of bigger cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Because of the District’s unique status, the city government also performs many of the functions of a state and county government.
In 2006, then-Mayor Anthony Williams (D) proposed increasing his office’s salary for his successor. The pay rose from about $152,000 to $200,000 when Adrian Fenty was sworn into office in January 2007.
Mendelson said he couldn’t recall if he considered pay increases before 2015, when the current officeholders were sworn in. But he said the political environment was far different then.
“We were fresh out of the scandals,” said Mendelson, referring to the fraud conviction of Kwame Brown, the previous council chairman, in 2012 and a federal probe into then-Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who never was charged and now represents Ward 7 on the D.C. Council. “And there’s a difference between a eight-year lapse and a 12-year lapse.”
Mendelson acknowledged the negative perception of increasing the pay of elected officials in a city with yawning income inequality, but he said detractors should look at it differently.
The other 12 council members get automatic pay raises, and rank-and-file District government workers have seen their salaries jump even higher since 2007.
“Ten percent is quite modest when you look at the growth of government salaries and inflation over the last 12 years,” said Mendelson, whose office notified reporters about the bill Friday afternoon.
Dozens of nonelected positions in the District pay more than the mayor, including city administrator ($295,000) and chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, who makes $250,000.