The blind fish that swim in the caves of Arkansas have a friend
in Steve Wilson. As director of the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission, which regulates hunting and fishing in the state,
Wilson also helps to protect the state's endangered cave fish,
burying beetles, bald eagles and alligators.
Wilson is paid pretty well for his myriad responsibilities. In
fact, he makes more than Gov. Mike Huckabee. Wilson's salary of
$82,175 is close to 30 percent more than the governor's $63,407
annual pay. Even Wilson's assistant director, Scott Henderson,
makes $3,062 more than the governor.
Indeed, a lot of Arkansas state government employees earn more
than the governor. If Arkansas didn't pay top managers more than it
pays the governor, the state would be hard pressed to find
qualified people to fill important positions.
Many states and localities have found themselves in the same
boat. They are coming up with ways to pay salaries to department
heads, specialists and high-ranking aides that are higher - and
sometimes much higher - than those they pay their top elected
"At certain levels, you have to pay to attract people you
want," said Rex Nelson, Arkansas' director of policy and
communications, who earns about $6,500 more than the governor. "The
state is by far the biggest employer. You would want qualified
people running that enterprise."
Many governments are bound by laws that cap salaries or peg
them to the mayor's or governor's so no one may make more. And most
face public resistance to raising pay for bureaucrats who some
constituents think are already too well paid.
Many Exceed $100,000
Nevertheless, government salaries have started to rise pretty
substantially all over the country.
The upward pressure on salaries is likely to put more
government employees in the $100,000 club, though the club is
hardly lacking members.
Burrow down a couple of layers in many different states and
localities, and six-figure salaries aren't hard to find.
In Virginia, for example, 783 employees (many of them
university employees) were earning salaries of $100,000 or more as
of this past spring. That's 289 more than in 1993. In all, 382 of
Virginia's 107,118 state employees pull down more than the $110,000
that Gov. George Allen receives.
Virginia is hardly alone. Many governments have come to realize
that, salary constraints or not, they need to find ways to attract
and keep talented employees to run their complex government
operations. With businesses only too willing to review the resumes
of accomplished government workers and lure away the best of them,
governments have to pay more to compete.
Rather than watch helplessly while their workers are snatched
away, many governments have gotten creative. …