State Workers

State pay shows benefits of education

The Washington State Capitol in Olympia. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)
The Washington State Capitol in Olympia. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)

Washington State University president Elson Floyd, who gave back most of a $125,000 pay raise last year, still appears to be the highest-paid state worker on the state’s payroll – at least in terms of base pay.

But his University of Washington counterpart, president Mark Emmert, earns considerably more, even though Emmert’s base salary is $5,000 less than Floyd’s. And UW football coach Steve Sarkisian makes more than either of them – more than $1 million a year – even though his basic state check pays him only $300,000 a year.

The state Office of Financial Management published a compilation of state workers’ pay this week, something the governor’s budget office does every odd-numbered year.

The database shows the base salaries for about 150,000 workers at state agencies, colleges and universities as of the second pay period in January 2009.

It does not include other forms of compensation.

For instance, Emmert’s listed salary of $620,004 doesn’t include the $250,000 a year he gets in deferred compensation, his $12,000 a year car allowance or the state’s $22,750 match to his pension.

“It doesn’t show the total compensation package,” said Norm Arkans, UW associate vice president for media relations and communications, referring to the state base salary database.

Combined, Emmert’s total state compensation is more than $900,000 and it would have been even higher had he not turned down a scheduled pay raise from the UW Regents last summer. Emmert also gets more than $340,000 in pay and stock options for serving on the boards of directors for a couple of companies.

Last year, Emmert was ranked as the second-highest paid public university president, while Floyd was 17th.

Floyd got a $125,000 raise in 2008 that boosted his base pay to $725,000, but he gave $100,000 back, citing statewide budget problems because of the recession.

Salaries for many other state workers in the database are understated because they don’t include other extras.

For instance, State Patrol troopers who are assigned as bodyguards for the governor – the executive protection unit – get an additional 10 percent premium. Likewise, troopers assigned to King County get 10 percent more than their counterparts in most other parts of the state, and lieutenants with a master’s degree get 10 percent more than a lieutenant with only a high school diploma.

Likewise, prison guards who are stationed in remote locations, such as Coyote Ridge in Eastern Washington, get 5 percent more than prison guards at McNeil Island. State Department of Ecology workers who are fluent in a second language and are assigned to a translation team get 5 percent more pay than other ecology workers.

There are so many state college officials in higher pay ranges that the budget office publishes separate Top 100 lists. The highest-paid person at a state agency, Gary Bruebaker, chief investment officer for the state Investment Board, would be ranked only No. 31 on the higher education Top 100 salary list. Bruebaker earns $300,132 a year.

The governor? The state’s highest elected official ranks 15 on the general government list at $166,891 a year.

State universities have wide latitude to set salaries for their workers, although the Legislature still sets tuition rates for undergraduate students. Faced with a $9 billion shortfall this year, lawmakers authorized the four-year colleges to raise tuition by 14 percent each of the next two years.

The state cut overall spending by about $4 billion over the next two years and eliminated at least 1,500 jobs, some of them through layoffs. There isn’t likely to be much change in state salaries over the next two years because in most instances salaries have been frozen and most state agency workers won’t get cost of living adjustments for the next two years.

However, some state workers will get wage hikes because of promotions or because their longevity will allow them to move higher up on their respective salary grids.

Although the salary database generally is published in January, its release was delayed until August this year.

OFM spokesman Glenn Kuper said state agencies were asked to double-check listed base pay for their respective workers because the list released two years ago overstated salaries for some workers. That extra step added several months to the process, he said.

Joseph Turner: 360-786-1826

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