Tuesday, December 11, 2012

$484,000 for a state trooper? Not in N.C.

North Carolina has its budget problems, and some folks want to cut state workers or their pay. But at least we're not California.

A new Bloomberg News report out today analyzes payroll data of 1.4 million public employees in the 12 most populous states, including North Carolina. It found that California "has set a pattern of lax management, inefficient operations and out-of-control costs." Bloomberg details how California employees' salaries, overtime and lump-sum payouts for things like accrued vacation have spiraled into the stratosphere compared with other states.

One example Bloomberg cites: "While more than 5,000 California troopers made $100,000 or more in 2011, only three in North Carolina did, the data show."

So where does North Carolina rank? Among the 12 most populous states, North Carolina is right in the middle, ranking 7th for average pay per state employee ($41,878). That puts it behind California, New York, New Jersey and the union-heavy Midwestern states of Illinois and Ohio, as well as Michigan. North Carolina's average pay is a good bit higher than southeastern counterparts Virginia, Georgia and Florida. North Carolina's overtime pay is the second lowest in the Bloomberg study.

North Carolina appears to have a lot of state employees for a state our size. I crunched the data on the number of state employees per capita in the 12 largest states. North Carolina has one state worker for every 117 residents (using 2010 Census data and Bloomberg's job totals). That ranks North Carolina fourth highest among the 12 most populous states, behind only New Jersey, Virginia and New York.

Bloomberg tells of a California employee who got $609,000 for accrued vacation, a state psychiatrist who made $822,000 and a trooper who collected $484,000 in pay and pension benefits.

Nothing like that in North Carolina. Check out the Observer's database of state employees' pay here. It lists North Carolina's highest-paid employee as Larry Wheeler, the director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. His salary is listed as $289,432. (The Bloomberg study and the Observer database do not include university employees.)

-- Taylor Batten


Veronica said...

No. State/Public Employees per 100,000 residents:

Georgia, 4,894
Tennessee, 4,738
Indiana, 4,631
Florida, 4,366
North Carolina, 5,175

Annual State/Public Employee Payroll Dollars per Capita:

Georgia, $172
Tennessee, $166
Indiana, $171
Florida $173
North Carolina, $193

SOURCE: 2010 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll, U.S. Census Bureau

Observer editorial board said...

Thanks for those numbers. Can you post a link where those live? I couldn't find them. They must include university employees and others not included in the Bloomberg report.
I'm not sure your numbers contradict Bloomberg's findings. Your numbers have NC higher than Florida and Georgia for state employee numbers, and as the blogpost said, NC ranks 4th highest on that among the 12 biggest states.
Tell me about why you included Tennessee and Indiana specifically? (Bloomberg study only looks at 12 biggest states.)

White Powder Ma said...

"...a state psychiatrist who made $822,000..."

I think if you look a little deeper into this one you'll find that the individual involved works for the prison system. Further, due to some legal entanglements the psychiatrist has NOT been allowed to go to work for several years. John Stossel has done several stories and follow-ups on this story.

Skippy said...

Shocking CA the liberal cess pool that it is has a 16 billion debt and over 700 billion in unfunded public sector pensions. They also have the highest income equality problems brought to you by high taxes, unions and illegal immigrants.

Anonymous said...

All of bureaucracy is bloated, redundant, and needs a trim down badly. Our government has literally become fat and lazy with our money.

Observer editorial board said...

White Powder Ma:
Here's the story on that psychiatrist, from the Bloomberg story:

The story of one prison psychiatrist shows how pay largesse has spread.
Mohammad Safi, graduate of a medical school in Afghanistan, collected $822,302 last year, up from $90,682 when he started in 2006, the data show. Safi was placed on administrative leave in July and is under investigation by the Department of State Hospitals, formerly the Department of Mental Health.
Long Hours
The doctor was paid for an average of almost 17 hours each day, including on-call time and Saturdays and Sundays, although he did take time off, said David O’Brien, a spokesman for the department. In a brief interview outside his home in Newark, California, Safi said he’d been placed on leave for working too many hours and declined further comment. An increase in the number of beds at the facility where Safi worked forced him to cover more shifts, and he was allowed to do some of the work from home, said his lawyer, Ed Caden.
Safi and other psychiatrists employed by the state benefited from what amounted to a 2007 bidding war between California’s prisons and mental health departments, after a series of federal court orders forced the state to improve its inmate care. Higher pay in the prison system was matched by mental health, and as psychiatrists followed larger salaries, the state’s cost to provide the care soared.
Last year, 16 psychiatrists on California’s payroll, including Safi, made more than $400,000. Only one did in any other state in the data compiled by Bloomberg, a doctor in Texas. Safi earned more than twice as much as any state psychiatrist elsewhere, the data show.

John said...

One major problem with reports like this is they typically only look at part of the equation. While I'm sure California is pretty screwed up, NC's lower ranking may not be as good as it seems due to difference in cost of living!

2nd Qtr 2012 figures have California ranked 8th most expensive State with an index of 129.07. NC is ranked 31st with an index of 94.88, a difference of more than 34 pts or 27%!

A truer picture would emerge if the numbers were adjusted for the Cost of Living in each of the states being compared.

For instance, using Veronica's numbers, it appears that NC spends more per capita than Florida, although Florida's 98.82 COE is nearly 4 full points higher than NC, suggesting an even larger difference!

While California so skews the numbers that the Bloomberg report's gist is indisputable, attempting to draw any conclusions about the other states mentioned without this adjustment is unwise.

Ironically, the issues describe in California are the very same things that have been happening in Washington DC since FDR and have only accelerated the past 4 years! As the saying goes: as California goes, so goes the nation. God help us!

Elvis Chainsaw said...

-> I crunched the data on the number of state employees per capita in the 12 largest states.

Go to Census.gov

Use search tool

Search state employees

Veronica said...