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Originally published Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 7:09 PM

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Port of Seattle CEO Yoshitani to get 9% pay raise

Port of Seattle commissioners gave CEO Tay Yoshitani a pay increase Tuesday, to a base salary of $366,825 this year. The commissioners voted 3-2 for what amounts to a 9 percent increase. Raises for Port staff have been capped at 3.5 percent, according to Commissioner John Creighton, who said he voted against the CEO raise.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Port of Seattle commissioners gave CEO Tay Yoshitani a pay raise Tuesday, to a base salary of $366,825 effective this year.

The commissioners voted 3-2 for what amounts to a 9 percent increase. Raises for Port staff have been capped at 3.5 percent, according to Commissioner John Creighton, who said he voted against the CEO raise.

"My main objection is that the pay increase is simply too high, while our region continues to struggle in a down economy," he said.

The 3 ½-year contract allows for additional performance raises and the option for a year's extension. Yoshitani's previous pay, including deferred compensation, was $334,300, said Charla Skaggs, a Port spokeswoman.

Despite the recession, the Port moved a record 2.1 million containers across its docks last year, attracted more cruise ships and increased airport business to 31.5 million passengers.

That growth saved thousands of jobs, said Commissioner Tom Albro, who voted "yes" on Yoshitani's new contract. Operating income this year is projected to be just over $500 million, and net operating revenue $54 million.

"The next few years will be extremely competitive as the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2014, and we believe both the Port and the communities we serve will benefit from his [Yoshitani's] continued leadership," Albro said in a statement.

After he retires, Yoshitani could earn up to $100,000 by advising his successor during a one-year transition. Creighton said he learned of that clause only Monday, so he didn't have time to fully consider it.

Yoshitani declined a 4 percent raise in August, citing the bad economy. Albro said at the time it was "a testament to his character and leadership" that the CEO refused to take it.

Yoshitani now makes more than double the pay of Gov. Chris Gregoire, who was paid $166,891 last year.

Yoshitani's goals, set Tuesday by the commission, include issuing a finance plan to cover the Port's proposed $300 million contribution toward the state's Highway 99 tunnel project in Seattle; funding a Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup; and generating income from real estate and operations.

Creighton said Yoshitani has improved financial discipline within the agency since being hired four years ago, but that a 9 percent raise sends the wrong signal to taxpayers.

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The Port expects to collect $73.5 million in property taxes, or $80 on an average $330,000 home, from King County residents this year, its latest financial plan says.

Voting for the raise were Albro, Rob Holland and Bill Bryant. Gael Tarleton and Creighton voted against it.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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