New Mexico lawmakers call governor’s staff salary increases “deaf”


SANTA FE, New Mexico (KRQE) – Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle speak out after discovering a handful of Governor Michelle Lujan Grishamstaff got big pay rises last year during the pandemic. Some lawmakers don’t mince their words when they found out about the pay increases.

“The people who have received these increases are protecting the governor’s political image and spreading his political message,” said Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque). “One of them, I will note, Victor Reyes is now a candidate for Congress. It’s a kind of short-term, self-serving thinking that makes people wonder whether or not members of government know what it’s like to work a real job or have to live a real life. I think New Mexicans have a right to be frustrated and I think the governor is hypocritical when she does things like that, it is a very hypocritical act.

the State Sunshine Portal shows how much each state employee earns. Comparing the numbers from 2020 to January 2021, we see the governor’s director of boards and commissions raked in an additional $ 12,000. His chief of staff also got a raise of $ 13,000. But one of the biggest leaps was its communications director who got a pay raise of around $ 19,000.

Salary increases for governor’s staff:

Name / Position Year: 2020 Year: 2021
Caroline Buerkle, Deputy Director of Operations $ 125,001 $ 135,001
Diego Arençon, Deputy Chief of Staff $ 125,001 $ 135,001
Teresa Casados, Director of Operations $ 135,200 $ 146,016
Dominic Gabello, chief of staff $ 133,120 $ 143,770
Matthew Garcia, Chief of Staff $ 133,120 $ 146,016
Victor Reyes, Director of Legislative Affairs $ 93,600 $ 101,088
Tripp Stelnicki, Director of Communications $ 88,399 $ 107,000
Melissa Salazar, Director of Boards and Commissions $ 78,000 $ 90,000

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said in an email that some of these salary increases took place during the pandemic and some of them were scheduled for 2019 but took effect in 2020. Lawmakers have said that regardless of whether this was planned for 2020, his office should have changed those plans. Adding that many state employees, during the pandemic, could not obtain a salary increase and that it is deaf to New Mexicans who lost their jobs Last year.

“There are a lot of hard working New Mexicans who would like not only to have a job but even more a raise and they are not getting it right now,” said Senator Greg Baca (R-leader minority group). “So I think the timing for this raise in pay and this increase in the inner circle is really bad judgment.”

The governor’s office said the legislature was the one that slashed pay increases for state employees like teachers expected to get last year. Her office also said she advocated keeping a sustainable portion of proposed compensation for state employees when lawmakers sought to make cuts to save money for the pandemic. The governor’s office said some of its employees had been promoted since 2019, when he took office, and their salaries had been adjusted to their new position.

The following is the full statement from the governor’s office:

Some employees in the governor’s office – and even throughout the state government – have received salary increases since they started working for the administration in 2019. It is not correct to say that ‘they all happened’ during the pandemic ‘like some – some of them happened in 2019 and some of them were scheduled for 2019 and went into effect in 2020. Some employees of the governor’s office were promoted during this period and their salary was adjusted accordingly with the new job and new position, including Mr. Garica, Mr. Arencon and Ms. Buerkle.
I would point out, for your context, that the description others may have used for the environment in which the salary increases occurred is not accurate. In fact, the executive argued for maintaining a fiscally viable portion of the proposed salary increases for educators and other employees during the June 2020 special session. Ultimately, the legislature lowered the number to 1. % as a saving measure given the economic outlook at the time. As you know, it is the legislature that allocates funds to the governor’s office, which includes funding for employee salaries, which change when employees are promoted or their responsibilities expanded, as in any other. office. The office remains within its means to the extent of what is budgeted.
The staff of the governor’s office play a vital role in the functioning of the executive branch of the state and in the governance of the state – all of this is amplified during a year-long crisis. They coordinate the state departments and agencies, all of which operate under the direction of the executive, as stipulated in the state constitution. This work has been particularly critical during the ongoing pandemic, as staff in the governor’s office have worked 24/7 to lead the state’s COVID-19 response and continue to provide important information to the public. . “

Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary, Office of the Governor

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