Hawaii lawmakers started seeing fatter paychecks July 1 thanks to the Salary Commission’s recommendation and the end of the voluntary cuts they took during the recession.

Fifty House reps and 24 senators will each earn $55,896 this fiscal year, $9,600 more than 2012. House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim will have annual salaries of $63,396, a $10,000 bump.

The Salary Commission, which voters created in 2006, decided in 2007 that lawmakers’ salaries should be significantly higher because they hadn’t received much in the way of raises for almost two decades.

The recommended increases, which the Legislature and then-Gov. Linda Lingle approved, were supposed to take effect in 2009 but were sidelined by the global financial crisis in 2008. Lawmakers voted reluctantly in 2011 to continue to give themselves 5 percent pay cuts since thousands of other public workers had to do the same.

The economy has rebounded well over the past couple years and public employees are finally seeing it in their state salaries.

The payroll system for the Legislature also includes the state Auditor’s Office, Legislative Reference Bureau, Ombudsman’s Office and Ethics Commission.

Counting the 76 lawmakers and the House and Senate staffs, there are 380 employees under the Legislature’s payroll system earning combined salaries totaling $22.38 million.

In 2012, there were 384 employees earning a combined $20.14 million, not including health or fringe benefits.

The House and Senate staff members who do everything from legislative analysis and office management to research and legal advice also received raises this year.

The 124 House staff members will earn an average salary of $57,394 in 2013, up from $52,980 last year when there were 121 people on staff.

In 2012, Patricia Mau-Shimizu, chief clerk, was the highest paid House employee at $118,896. The new chief clerk, Brian Takeshita, makes $111,240 a year. He isn’t the highest paid House staffer in 2013 though. Joan Yamaguchi, director of research, makes the most at $112,404.

Takeshita told Civil Beat Monday that the House pay increases definitely help with recruitment, retention and morale on the staff level. 

“The public sector is always in competition with the private sector for quality employees, and the Legislature is in further competition with the rest of state government,” he said. “When one considers that legislative employees do not have the protection of civil service status or union representation, it’s a further disadvantage. Anything that assists us in being more attractive as a place to work is helpful.”

Staff salaries are also increasing over on the Senate side, from $45,993 on average last year to $52,298 in 2013. Unlike the House, however, the Senate hired fewer employees in 2013, operating with 96 workers instead of 105 last year.

Senate Majority Office Director Casey Hines remains the highest paid at $101,928. Last year, he earned $90,804.

Carol Taniguchi, Senate chief clerk, told Civil Beat that there a lot of hardworking employees at the Senate. She said they aren’t paid overtime and the salary increases will hopefully help retain them and recruit more talent in a tough job market.

Here’s a breakdown of each agency’s salary data.

Office of the Auditor

  • Total employees: 26 (Up one position from last year.)
  • Total amount spent on salaries: $2.02 million (Up from $1.86 million last year.)
  • Average salary: $74,648 (Up $3,365 from last year.)
  • Highest-paid employee: Acting Auditor Jan Yamane, $133,536 (Up from Higa’s salary of $129,024 last year.)

Legislative Reference Bureau

  • Total employees: 36 (Up three positions from last year.)
  • Total amount spent on salaries: $2.27 million (Up from $1.94 million last year.)
  • Average salary: $63,160 (Up $4,122 from last year.)
  • Highest-paid employee: Acting Director Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi $133,536(Up from $108,973 last year.)

Hawaii Ethics Commission

  • Total employees: 10 (Up one position from last year.)
  • Total amount spent on salaries: $762,780 (Up from $630,168 last year.)
  • Average salary: $76,278 (Up $6,259 from last year.)
  • Highest-paid employee: Executive Director Les Kondo $133,536 (Up from $108,972 last year.)

Office of the Ombudsman

  • Total employees: 14 (Down one position from last year.)
  • Total amount spent on salaries: $1.02 million (Up from $934,846 last year.)
  • Average salary: $72,672 (Up 10,349 from last year.)
  • Highest-paid employee: Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga $133,536 (Up from $108,973 last year.)

Here’s the salary database for 2013. You can search by first and last name, department, job title, salary range and year. To compare how this year stacks up to previous years, check out the salary database that covers 2011 and 2012 here.

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