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Salaries of many state department heads outpace inflation

Salaries of many state department heads outpace inflation

December 8, 2009
December 8, 2009

While many people who have managed to hang onto their private sector jobs this year have done so by taking pay cuts, some state employees are receiving pay raises larger than the annual inflation rate. According to state records, payroll costs (salary + benefits) grew from $888,790,878.02 in FY99 to $1,339,354,569.40 in FY08. That amounts to an increase of about 50 percent, or an average of 5 percent per year. Nationally, inflation was 28.27 percent, or 2.8 percent per year.

In the last 13 years, most state department heads have received pay increases outpacing inflation. One exception is the Director of Parks and Recreation, whose salary in 1996 was $76,440. In FY09, it was 31 percent higher at $100,360. That works out to an average increase of 2.4 percent per year. But other department heads have done better. For instance, the directors of the state’s seven health districts have gotten raises ranging from a modest 3 percent annually, to a whopping 5.5 percent.

Carol Moehrle, director of the North Central Health District, and the only current district director who was in office in 1996, has seen her salary grow from $55,868 to $95,638, a 71 percent increase or 5.5 percent per year.

The list goes on: Director of Agriculture - $65,000 in 1996 to $106,620 in 2009, which comes out to 64 percent or 4.9 percent annually. Director of Health and Welfare - $83,990 in 1996 to $141,710 in 2009, or 68 percent /5.2 percent annually. Director of Insurance - $61,984 in 1996 to $97,323 in 2009, 57 percent or 4.4 percent annually. On the high end, the Director of the Labor Department made $60,008 in 1996. In FY09, he was paid $111,945, an 86 percent increase or 6.6 percent per year.

It should be noted that most of the state’s current department heads were not in office in 1996.

Given the estimated $151 million state budget shortfall for FY 2010 (which began in July), the Idaho Freedom Foundation wanted to know if such increases are sustainable. John Hanian, spokesman for Gov. Butch Otter told us, “The governor has said everything is on the table. We’re looking at anything and everything we can to save money. We’re getting a lot of input on our efficiency website, and some constituents have raised that issue.” He pointed out that only one agency head received a pay raise for FY 2010, she being the director of the Board of Tax Appeals. Furthermore, Michael Gwartney, Director of the Department of Administration, is not taking any salary.

Hanian says Otter is trying to make state jobs more on par with private sector jobs, in terms of salary and benefits. “He’s been saying that from the beginning of his term, he felt like the pay and benefits were out of line with the private sector; in many instances the state benefits were much better than the private sector would offer, and on the pay side, in many instances the state workers were getting less than what the private sector offered.”

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