Politics

During his annual State of the Judiciary address on Friday, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton asked lawmakers to raise salaries for the state’s 284 judges and justices.

Minton said the state compensates judges at the lowest rate compared to surrounding states, which he said makes judges feel discouraged and undervalued.

“It also provides little incentive, really, for the best and brightest lawyers to leave a lucrative law practice to mount an expensive campaign for election to judicial office,” Minton said.

Salaries for judges and justices range from $112,668 to $140,504 per year. Minton proposed that during the 2018 budget-writing session, lawmakers grant a 5 percent pay raise each year for two years. The total cost would be about $5.7 million.

Minton requested a raise for judges during this year’s legislative session, but lawmakers were busy putting together the state’s two-year spending plan that included deep cuts in order to free up more money into the state’s ailing pension systems.

Rep. Chris Harris, a Democrat from Forest Hills, was among lawmakers who voiced support for Minton’s proposal.

“I don’t think it’s anything for our state to be proud of that we’re among the lowest in the country of what we pay our judges,” Harris said.

Judges and justices haven’t gotten a raise since 2007 except for two years of 1 percent raises and two years of $400 raises.

During his 2014 address, Minton said that Kentucky judges make about 17.4 percent less than the national average.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.