PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A big pay day could be on the way for several members of Gov. Dan McKee’s cabinet.
McKee is seeking approval to award raises of up to 43% – ranging from $15,000 to $60,000 – to his cabinet directors.
The largest potential pay bump would be given to the state’s health director, whose salary would increase from $140,000 to $200,000.
Other cabinet-level positions benefitting from the proposal include the director of the state’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, who would receive a $44,000 salary increase, and the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, who would receive a $40,000 pay bump.
But not everyone agrees with McKee’s proposal.
In fact, his Republican challenger Ashely Kalus is calling his “spending spree” fiscally irresponsible.
“The degree to which Dan McKee is tone-deaf never ceases to amaze Rhode Islanders,” Kalus said in a statement. “Fifty-eight percent of Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck, and McKee decides to give members of his cabinet, who are already making six figures, significant raises – nearly double the salary for some.”
12 News reached out to McKee for comment, to which spokesperson Matthew Sheaff defended his proposal.
“The average pay for the head of a Rhode Island State agency currently trails Massachusetts’ and Connecticut’s averages by more than $20,000,” Sheaff said in a statement. “Some of those Rhode Island positions have not had a salary increase since 2015. This needs to be addressed to retain and attract talented individuals to open positions.”
Sheaff also assured that the salaries of these positions would gradually increase over time, and the listed amounts are McKee’s intended salary caps.
But Kalus argues that the state’s taxpayers deserve better.
“If McKee were to be elected, this would cost the taxpayers of Rhode Island over three and a half million dollars in salaries alone,” she said. “This is just the latest in a pattern of the governor using taxpayer dollars to shore up support as Election Day approaches. Enough is enough. It’s time to end the handouts to insiders.”
McKee had originally sought approval for cabinet director raises back in March, but his administration scrapped the idea and refused to confirm whether he would reconsider it later on.
The General Assembly now has 30 days to either approve or reject the cabinet-level raises before they take effect.
The matter will be discussed during a hearing next week.