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Craig vetoes raise for future Harford county executives

As he had said he would, Harford County Executive David Craig vetoed legislation Tuesday that would raise the salary of his successor and others who hold his office in the future.

In his veto message, Craig called the proposal to raise the executive's base salary from $90,000 to $130,000 "a significant pay raise" that would cost taxpayers a minimum of $100,000.

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The veto is yet another twist involving a pair of bills introduced in August by outgoing Council President Billy Boniface and Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti to give raises to both the future executive and council members.

The council raise legislation was withdrawn in the face of public criticism, after one of the sponsors said there weren't enough votes to pass it. The executive raise legislation went forward, however, and passed by a 5-1 margin with one abstention on Sept. 2. Before the bills were even introduced, Craig had vowed to veto them if they passed.

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Five votes would be needed to override Tuesday's veto.

The council had been scheduled to meet next on Oct. 7. Boniface announced Tuesday, however, that "in anticipation of the county executive's veto of Bill 14-27," the council will hold a special session at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 25, "to address the override of the veto."

The council president declined to comment on the veto, saying he would wait until the special session.

In the veto message, Craig focused on his desire to give employees pay raises and said his "largest regret" has been that the economy made that "difficult."

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He noted that when he took office in 2005, the county employees regularly received cost of living and step raises, but that became impossible after the economy tanked in 2008.

"Being fiscally prudent, however, was very important," he wrote. "While pay raises were not provided five out of the six years [after 2008], the administration did provide a 4 percent raise in FY13. Unfortunately the rise in federal social security taxes undermined this. Many did not see that they had received a pay raise which was retroactive."

He also wrote he found it "depressing" that, in 2012, the council members halved his proposal to give all employees a one-time bonus of $1,250. At the time, the council said the money should be used toward the county's increased obligation to fund teacher pensions.

Craig noted his salary increased annually based on the Consumer Price Index, rising from $95,387 in 2007 to $102,080 in 2010, but he remitted his entire pay raise for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 because of the economy. He also introduced a bill to restrict the executive's annual CPI increase so it could never be higher, by percentage, than that given to employees. The legislation was enacted.

"Without that legislation the salary of the county executive would be $110,379, $6,000 more than I currently receive," Craig wrote. His spokesperson said previously Craig's current salary is $105,136 annually.

Craig is term-limited and will be leaving office in early December. The legislation he vetoed is due to take effect on July 1, 2015, the start of the next fiscal year, and eight months into the new executive's term.

The county council president and council members salaries are $39,718 and $36,210, respectively. The legislation that was withdrawn would have raised them to $48,000 and $45,000, respectively.

The council instead passed a resolution encouraging the executive to talk more openly with the Board of Education, Sheriff's Office, Harford County Public Library, Harford Community College and their respective employee bargaining units. The resolution is not legally binding.

Craig and the council engaged in another veto fight this spring year over a proposed charter amendment to remove the classified protected status of deputy department heads, making them at-will employees in the future. The council easily overrode that veto, and the amendment will be on the November general election ballot for approval by county voters.

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