Nearly 3,600 Pennsylvania State Employees Make over $100K

By Brad Bumsted; Debra Erdley | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 15, 2011 | Go to article overview

Nearly 3,600 Pennsylvania State Employees Make over $100K


Brad Bumsted; Debra Erdley, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


HARRISBURG -- Two dozen state employees in education-related agencies earn $200,000 or more, and they are among nearly 3,600 state employees paid at least $100,000 annually, a Tribune-Review analysis of payroll records from the three branches of Pennsylvania government and various commissions and agencies shows.

Only 2.7 percent of Pennsylvania tax-filers reported incomes of $200,000 or more in 2008, the latest year available, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

"I can't imagine making that kind of money," said Rhonda Rose, 56, of Carrick, who makes $12 an hour working for a private mental health agency. "It's our hard-earned money. They're living off my dime."

The Trib's examination occurs as state lawmakers debate how to cover a $4.2 billion budget deficit.

State Department of Labor and Industry figures show 7.4 percent of working Pennsylvanians made $100,000 or more between 2007 and 2009. In 2009, the latest data available, there were 5.7 million people working in Pennsylvania. The average salary in all sectors that year was $44,436. On the state payroll this year, 3.3 percent of 108,117 employees make $100,000.

The highest-paid state employee, Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh of the university system, makes $327,500, records show.

Cavanaugh, who proposed freezing management salaries this year, won't comment on his pay, said Kenn Marshall, a system spokesman.

"Dr. Cavanaugh's salary has not changed since he was named chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in July 2008," Marshall said. His salary and those of university presidents in the system are below the national average of $375,442 cited by the Chronicle for Higher Education in its most recent annual survey, Marshall said.

The Trib assembled payroll for the executive, legislative and judicial branches, including state row offices and independent agencies such as the Gaming Control Board, Turnpike Commission and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. The total payroll is $5.5 billion for 108,117 workers making $5,000 or more per year, a base amount the Trib chose as a starting point because people making less likely work part time.

Those earning $100,000 or more include physicians, elected leaders, judges, investment officers, college professors, corrections supervisors and state police sergeants.

"I personally wouldn't wipe my feet with a Pennsylvania politician," said Steve Anderson, 28, of East Liberty, a yoga teacher and information technology consultant. "They've done so much damage to our state. ... We are in crisis mode.

"While the upper echelons drive Lexuses and SUVs to meetings, saying 'What are we going to do about these people?,' those salaries could be rerouted to the Hill District and Homewood, to areas where economic development is not even considered," Anderson said.

Education a target

To help address the state's budget crisis, Gov. Tom Corbett, whose $177,401 salary ranks him 86th on the list, has proposed slashing university spending by 50 percent.

The Trib's review "demonstrates that state-supported higher education cannot be the only recession-proof industry in Pennsylvania," said Kevin Harley, Corbett's press secretary.

House Republican Policy Chairman Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, who as a legislative leader makes $90,792, said "everybody focuses on the Legislature" when debating salaries. Yet, he said, "when you look at executive and judicial salaries, they not only exceed legislative salaries but also the governor's. Most people would be surprised to see the governor's salary" isn't near the highest across state government.

The second-highest paid state official is James L. Preston, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, or PHEAA, who makes $319,999 a year. Asked whether Preston would comment, spokesman Mike Reiber said: "No, not on this one. …

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