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AGLO 1973 No. 20 - February 02, 1973
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- ELECTED OFFICIALS ‑- SALARY RAISES

If the legislature provides for salary increases for state elected officials by including such increases in a supplemental appropriation act covering the remainder of the current (1971-73) fiscal biennium, based upon recommendations submitted by the governor under RCW 43.03.045, such salary increases will be valid.

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                                                                 February 2, 1973

Honorable Martin J. Durkan
Chairman, Ways and Means Committee
State Senate
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 20

Dear Senator Durkan:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question pertaining to the enactment of salary raises for state elected officials by the current session of the legislature.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            If the legislature provides for salary increases for state elected officials by including such increases in a supplemental appropriation act covering the remainder of the current (1971-73) fiscal biennium, based upon recommendations submitted by the governor under RCW 43.03.045, will such salary increases be valid?

            We answer this question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            We begin by noting the constitutional basis for the establishment of salaries for state elected officials.  Article XXVIII, § 1 (Amendment 20) covers this matter by providing, in material part, as follows:

            "All elected state officials shall each severally receive such compensation as the legislature may direct. . . ."

            Moreover, although the next sentence of this constitutional provision continues to prohibit mid-term decreases in the salaries of such elected officials, by virtue of Amendment 54 (adopted in 1968), salaries may now constitutionally be increased on a mid-term basis for those elected officials ". . . who do not fix their own compensation . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            In the past, the legislature has normally exercised the authority vested in it by this constitutional provision through the enactment (or amendment) of general statutes of continuing duration setting forth the subject salaries; see, e.g., § 2, chapter 1, Laws of 1965, amending RCW 43.03.010 to read as follows:

            "The annual salaries of the following named state elected officials shall be: Governor, thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars; lieutenant governor, ten thousand dollars; secretary of state, fifteen thousand dollars; state treasurer, fifteen thousand dollars; state auditor, sixteen thousand five hundred dollars; attorney general, twenty-three thousand dollars; superintendent of public instruction, twenty-two thousand five hundred dollars; commissioner of public lands, twenty thousand dollars; state insurance commissioner, sixteen thousand five hundred dollars; . . ."

            However, in 1970 (several years after this last salary increase for these officers was granted) the legislature provided for an alternative method of handling this matter.  In essence, this recent enactment (chapter 43, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess.) contemplates, first, that a state salary committee will, prior to the commencement of each regular session of the legislature,

            ". . . make a study of the duties and salaries of all state elective officials, including members of the supreme, appellate, superior, and district courts and of the members of the legislature, and also a study of the duties and salaries of county elective officials, and report to the governor and the legislative council not later than sixty days prior to the convening of each regular session of the legislature and recommend the salaries to be established for each position. . . ."1/

             RCW 43.03.045, codifying § 4 of this 1970 act, then provides that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(1) The governor shall include, in the budget next transmitted by him to the legislature after the date of the submission of the report and recommendations of the committee under RCW 43.03.028, his recommendations with respect to the exact annual salaries which he deems advisable for all state elective officials within the purview of RCW 43.03.028.  As used in this subsection, the term 'budget' means the budget referred to in RCW 43.88.020 (1).

            "(2) The recommendation of the governor transmitted to the legislature in the budget as to such positions shall be carried forth and included in the appropriation act of the state.

            "The amount of the salaries for which positions as enacted by the legislature, in the appropriation bill, shall be the salary that each respective official shall receive.

            "In the event the governor makes no recommendation, the salary that each such respective official shall receive shall remain the same."

            Your concern, as explained in your letter, is over the question of whether this procedure contemplates the fixing of salaries only as a part of the main budget and appropriation act adopted for the ensuing fiscal biennium ‑ to the exclusion of a supplemental budget and appropriation act covering the remainder of the current biennium.  In paraphrasing your question, however, we have couched it in terms of the effectiveness of salaries fixed as a part of the supplemental appropriations act because, in our judgment, this is where the legal issue raised by your request really lies.

            Irrespective of whether chapter 43, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess., supra, contemplates the fixing of salaries only as a part of the main budget and appropriation act, the legislature, nevertheless, remains free in any event to disregard this statute and, instead, establish new salaries for state elective officials in any manner constitutionally available to it.  In no respect does  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] chapter 43, supra, constitute the exclusive method of handling this matter.  For example, although the supreme, appellate, superior and district court judges are all included (along with other state elective officials) under this 1970 act, when the 1972 legislative session determined to raise the salaries of these judges it did so by the "old" method of amending the general statutes fixing these salaries.  See, §§ 1-4, chapter 100, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess., amending, respectively, RCW 2.04.090, RCW 2.06.060, RCW 2.08.090 and RCW 3.58.010.

            Theonly limitations upon the authority of the legislature to fix or change the salaries of state elected officials at any time are those limitations contained in the Constitution itself, for it is well established that, as stated inClark v. Dwyer, 56 Wn.2d 425, 353 P.2d 941 (1960),

            ". . . the state constitution is not a grant, but a restriction on the lawmaking power, and the power of the legislature to enact all reasonable laws is unrestrained except where, either expressly or by fair inference, it is prohibited by the state and federal constitutions. . . ."

            There is, of course, nothing in Article XXVIII, § 1 (Amendment 20),supra, which precludes the legislature from fixing the salaries of state elected officials as part of an appropriations act, rather than through the enactment of general legislation.  Otherwise, chapter 43,supra, itself would be unconstitutional.  Thus, irrespective of whether they have been enacted in strict accordance with this 1970 act, any salary increases for state elected officials which are provided for in a supplemental appropriations act rather than the main budget will be constitutionally effective for the fiscal period covered by that supplemental act ‑ assuming, of course, that the title to the act is broad enough to encompass these provisions.  See,State ex rel. Jones v. Clausen, 78 Wash. 103, 138 Pac. 653 (1914), and cases cited therein.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Section 2, chapter 43, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess.

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