Nebraska judges would get raises under a bill senators advanced Wednesday to increase the salary of Nebraska Supreme Court judges by 5 percent a year over the next two years.
The bill (LB 232), introduced by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, would increase the judges’ annual pay from its current base of $145,600 to $152,900 in 2013, and again to $160,500 in 2014. It passed with a vote of 26-2.
Because the salaries of all Nebraska judges are based on a percentage of what the Supreme Court judges make, this would mean a 5-percent raise for all judges in the state.
Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings explained that the raise is necessary to lure talented lawyers away from their lucrative practices to become judges.
“To get a good lawyer to give up his practice and move to the bench is going to take some good money,” he said.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said that the money to cover the salary increase for the next two years is already in the General Fund. By not filling vacancies on the bench, judges saved about $2 million, which lapsed into the General Fund.
Sen. Norm Wallman of Cortland, who opposed the bill, said other public employees do not get an annual 5-percent raise, especially when they make more than $100,000 a year.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said he would not support the pay increase.
“Not because it’s not deserved, but we just don’t have the money,” he said.