AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers will again consider a proposal to give the state’s judges their first significant pay raise since 1999.
Under a bill proposed during the last legislative session, annual salaries for the 51 trial court judges in the District and Superior courts by more than $12,000, to just under $128,000. Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices would see their salaries increase to $136,000, while the chief justice’s salary would increase to $157,000.
Lawmakers put off a decision on the bill last spring because of monetary issues, but it is being brought back. The Judiciary Committee will review it in a work session Jan. 14.
Sen. Linda Valentino, a Democrat from Saco, told the Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/1gmXhs3) that salary increases are needed to attract a diverse group of highly qualified applicants.
‘‘We’re not getting a diversified enough bench,’’ she said. ‘‘They are all coming from the same background, the same law firms, the same government positions,’’ she said. ‘‘We’re 49th out of 50 states. Even New Hampshire is paying over $25,000 more, and they have pretty much the same caseload as we do in Maine.’’
Maine judges last got a raise by statute in the 1998-99 fiscal year, when trial court judges had a base salary of $90,000. They have received cost-of-living pay increases in some years since then.
Rep Jarrod Crockett of Bethel, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he agrees with the proposal but can’t support it if there isn’t enough money in the budget for lesser-paid employees.
‘‘If I find out that state employees are getting a cut and we’re looking at giving judges raises, that would be crazy,’’ he said.
Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com