SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Lottery Authority has given its CEO a 26% bump to his base annual pay - a move drawing criticism by those who argue the money should be going into a college scholarship program.
The salary of lottery CEO David Barden has increased from about $174,000 to $220,000 under his new three-year contract that went into effect this month, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday.
Lottery board Chairman Dan Salzwedel said the raise is not as big as it appears because the new agreement does not include several bonus pay incentives that the previous contract offered.
"He's below market, comparatively speaking," Salzwedel said. "He's done a really good job. He's performed really well."
Barden's agreement does include a one-time $8,800 salary retention adjustment and a severance package if he's fired.
"I think if people find this salary and increase to be unconscionable, given the primary goal of the program, they have some justification for feeling that way," said Tripp Stelnicki, spokesman for Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The state requires the lottery to direct 30% of its sales into a college scholarship program. High school graduates who meet certain criteria can get part of their tuition for state universities covered through the program.
The group Think New Mexico has advocated for the requirement. Its executive director, Fred Nathan, said the lottery board should be focused on maximizing scholarship funds.
"Every dollar going to excessive compensation for the Lottery CEO is a dollar less for college scholarships for deserving New Mexico students," Nathan said.
The lottery spends just over 3% of its total budget on administrative costs, Salzwedel said.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com
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