Capital Closeup | Governors’ salaries in Midwest, and how they’re set

New law in South Dakota increases pay starting in 2023

April 20, 2021

With this year’s passage of HB 1232, South Dakota’s governor and other constitutional officers will be getting a raise in pay starting in fiscal year 2023. The governor’s new salary will be $130,000. That compares to $116,400 in 2020, third-lowest in the Midwest (see table), according to The Council of State Governments’ “The Book of the States.”

North Dakota legislators also were considering proposals this year to raise the pay of their state’s chief executive officer. Last year, U.S. governors’ annual salaries ranged from a low of $70,000 in Maine to a high of $209,747 in California.

The method of setting compensation levels varies as well. In some states, the exact amount is set in statute and any changes must be passed by the legislature. In other states, the governor’s pay automatically increases and/or is tied to the compensation of other state employees.

Here is a look at some of the methods in place in the Midwest:

  • Indiana and Wisconsin have statutory mechanisms that tie a governor’s pay to that of other state workers. In Indiana, the salary is automatically raised every four years and is based on changes in pay for executive-branch employees in “the same or a similar salary bracket.” Wisconsin has a compensation plan for elected officials, appointed state agency heads, division administrators and other executive-level unclassified positions. The governor’s salary is adjusted according to changes in pay for state executives in the same salary grouping.
  • Michigan and Minnesota have compensation commissions/councils that regularly review the salaries of governors and constitutional officers and then make recommended change to the states’ respective legislatures.
  • Ohio legislators passed a bill three years ago (SB 296) establishing annual pay increases for the governor and other constitutional officers through FY 2028.

Capital Closeup is an ongoing series of articles focusing on institutional issues in state governments and legislatures.

Governors' salaries in Midwest in 2020