Ohio’s lieutenant governor should have one set salary, no matter what his or her duties: editorial

January 18, 2019

Ohio’s lieutenant governor should have one set salary, no matter what his or her duties: editorial

For roughly 40 years, since Ohio’s lieutenant governors stopped being state Senate president, the lieutenant governorship has been a job in search of duties, besides any assignments a governor may make -- or of course the significant duty of succeeding that governor should he or she die or resign. 

The last governor to die in office was Democratic Gov. John Pattison in 1906. The last resignation was Republican Gov. George V. Voinovich’s, at the end of his second term in 1998, to become a U.S. senator.

In 1983, the late Myrl Shoemaker, elected with Gov. Richard F. Celeste, was the first Ohio lieutenant governor to lead an agency, as director of Natural Resources.

Today, Ohio’s lieutenant governor is suburban Columbus Republican Jon Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine’s running mate, whose assignment will be to lead the Office of InnovateOhio.

The General Assembly, in its lame-duck December session, among other things approved pay raises for elected officials. Senate Bill 296 set the governor’s salary at $154,248 and the lieutenant governor’s at $113,947. Or is it $176,426? The answer is, “It depends,” thanks to muddled legislation that can keep Ohioans in the dark about the lieutenant governor’s pay.

Plainly put, $113,947 is the lieutenant governor’s default salary. But in creating InnovateOhio within DeWine’s office, SB 296 also set the salary of InnovateOhio’s director at $176,426.

Because Husted will direct InnovateOhio, he’ll be entitled to a $176,426 salary, not the lieutenant governor’s $113,947 salary. Got that? If you bring a volume of the Ohio Revised Code with you into the voting booth, you might.

True, InnovateOhio grew out of a key DeWine-Husted campaign plank, with the potentially important mission of galvanizing private technology talents to upgrade state operations and efficiencies and also to make Ohio more welcoming for high-tech firms and entrepreneurs. 

True also, these alternative salaries for Ohio’s lieutenant governors are customary and legal. Shoemaker was paid as director of Natural Resources, not as lieutenant governor. Similarly, Gov. John Kasich’s lieutenant governor, suburban Akron Republican Mary Taylor, when she ran Ohio’s Insurance Department, was paid that job’s salary ($150,405 a year) -- not $78,041, the lieutenant governor’s annual salary at the time. 

Nonetheless, all the legalese wrapped around a lieutenant governor’s pay is anything but transparent.

To serve voters, Ohio needs to set one clearly defined salary for its lieutenant governors that reflects the expectation of their ancillary roles.

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