LINCOLN — Nebraska's judges would get pay raises of 5 percent in each of the next two years under a bill moved forward Wednesday by the State Legislature.
Two state senators opposed the proposal, questioning why judges should get higher salary increases than other state employees, who got raises of 2.25 percent in those two years.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said he had already opposed raises for state constitutional officers and state legislators.
“At risk of getting a 90-day sentence for my next parking ticket, I'll oppose this, too,” Bloomfield said.
He and Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek were the only “no” votes in the 26-2, first-round advancement of the judges' pay measure, Legislative Bill 232.
Two attorneys in the Legislature, Sens. Steve Lathrop of Omaha and Les Seiler of Hastings, defended the pay hikes. They said that judges' salaries need to be competitive to attract good candidates and that judges got no raises in 2011 and a 2 percent hike this year.
Lathrop added that the state's court system saved about $2 million by delaying the replacement of retired judges. That money should cover the cost of the raises for the first two years.
Under LB 232, judges on the Nebraska Supreme Court would be paid $152,895 in the first year and $160,540 in the second. Pay for other judges is based on a percentage of that. For instance, District Court judges are paid 92.5 percent of what Supreme Court judges make; county court judges are paid 89 percent.
The salary hike was part of a deal with judges in which they agreed to continue to contribute 1 percent more toward their retirement to help close a $560,000 pension gap. The retirement measure, LB 306, also won first-round approval Monday.
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