State could give McKee’s cabinet directors up to $25K in raises

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island Department of Administration met Monday morning to discuss potential pay increases for 13 cabinet directors.

When first proposed by Governor Dan McKee, the increases would have seen each of the members receive $10,000 plus pay increases. Ranging from a $15,000 a year raise, all the way to a $60,000 a year.

But Monday, in newly written testimony proposed to the Department of Administration, Gov. Dan McKee adjusted his proposed salary raises. Now, only requesting 11 cabinet members receive a raise, and none of them more than $25,000.

A spokesperson for McKee, who did not attend the meeting, said the reason for these new proposals is a previous misunderstanding of the salary structure.

“In order to attract the best leaders for Rhode Island, we need to evaluate salaries as the market and the needs of our residents change,” Brian Daniels said of the Office of Management and Budget on behalf of McKee. ” When I first reviewed the proposed increases for 13 Cabinet members presented today, I understood these salaries as the tops of their respective ranges. However, it is now my understanding that, by statute, the proposals represent flat rates and not salary caps.”

Monday’s 10 a.m. meeting was open to the public, both in person and via Zoom, to consider the revisions to the Unclassified Service Classification and Pay Plan.

Under the governor’s new proposal, the directors of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare and Development Disabilities and Hospitals (DBHDDH), Department of Business Regulation (DBR), Human Services (DHS), and Department of Environmental Management (DEM) would receive the biggest pay increases. Each of those by about $25,000 per year.

Some members were in attendance, including Ashley Kalus, McKee’s Republican challenger for the office in the upcoming November election. Kalus had previously called out the governor on his wage increases last week, and on Monday followed up after the announcement he was adjusting salary levels.

“I’m here today to speak about the fact that these raises are out of touch,” Kalus said. “The governor is incompetent. He did not know what he was doing. Only today he comes in and admits that. We deserve better,” she said.

The largest proposed increase will be for the director of the Department of Health. If approved, their salary will be raised from $140,000 a year, up to $200,000.

The smallest proposed pay raise is for the director of the Department of Labor and Training. Their salary would go from $155,000 to $170,000 a year.

If approved, the salary increases will go into effect 30 days after referral, unless it is rejected by the Senate and House of Representatives within the 30-day period.

Following the hearing, the House Minority and Senate Minority Leaders requested a special session to review the proposed raises.

In a response, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker Joe Shekarchi issued a statement which read, “We will be reviewing the salary adjustments approved today after the Administration refers them to the General Assembly.”