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Proposal Would Cut Governors?€™ Salaries

A Finance Ministry proposal could cut in half the salaries of some regional governors, as the federal government tightens control over the regions while trying to rein in excess spending.

The proposed legislation, which could come into force starting next year, would amend a law on the organization of political power in the regions by giving the federal government the power to set salary caps for governors. The salaries of other regional officials would be prohibited from exceeding those of the governor, who would receive the authority to set salary caps for municipal officials in the region, according to the draft of the law, which is posted on the Finance Ministry’s web site.

The law is currently “in the process of being approved,” a ministry spokeswoman said without providing details.

Governors earn up to 352,000 rubles ($11,900) per month, a figure that surpasses President Dmitry Medvedev’s salary of 244,000 rubles and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 204,000 rubles per month, and is more than double the 164,000 ruble salary of other ministers, according to a Finance Ministry commentary on the law.

There is a “lack of correlation” between the salaries of top regional officials and “their accomplishments and the fiscal capabilities of regional budgets,” the commentary says.

The legislation falls in line with other moves made in recent years to include top regional officials into the so-called power vertical. “In essence, this measure recognizes governors as the top federal authority in the regions, rather than as representatives of the regional political elite,” said Nikolai Petrov, a regional analyst at the Carnegie Center.

And the timing for such a law couldn’t be better, as the recession has aggravated popular anger at the disproportionate earnings of government officials — ensuring that the governors don’t protest the law publicly, he said.

Federal officials’ wages often compare unfavorably with those of regional officials. Nevertheless, high salaries in rich regions are not a problem for the federal budget, said Rostislav Turovsky, an independent political analyst. “Limiting salaries would only make sense in subsidized regions,” Turovsky said, referring to regions that take more from federal coffers than they contribute.

In the first half of 2009, salaries of regional government officials were on average 40 percent higher than those of federal government officials in the same region, according to the State Statistics Service. The disparity reaches 143 percent in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district and is also large in the Sakhalin, Tyumen, Leningrad and Krasnodar regions.

Valery Zubov, a Just Russia deputy and former governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, said the idea is “rational” and “logical,” but too late in coming. “When I was governor, the salaries in our region, which had more money than most other territories in the country, were among the lowest,” he said. “That was annoying.”

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