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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 10, 2010 8:49 AM. The previous post in this blog was You can still get a plastic bag at Fred Meyer -- for a dime. The next post in this blog is A little well water with your Bull Run. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More bureaucrat salaries to gawk at

The troublemakers at Oregon Politico are at it again. We blogged a while back about their publication of the salaries and benefit amounts of all of the Multnomah County employees in a searchable online database -- a gutsy step toward government transparency. Now they've done the same with the State of Oregon payroll.

Alas, there are the inevitable loopholes. The university system isn't included, at least not yet, and even when it is, there will probably be some dodges involving "private" charitable organizations paying some of the top dogs' salaries. OHSU isn't in there, either, nor is the lottery commission.

The big money on the new state list goes to prison doctors, the two main human resources dudes, and the Masters of the Universe who invest the state's money under Treasurer Ted Wheeler. While Ted pulls down a big $72,000 salary, his top investment officer, Ronald Schmitz, cha-chings in at $265,512. Plus benefits, of course, putting Schmitz's total compensation for the year at $318,265. Who does he think he is, the Duck basketball coach?

Anyway, by our unofficial count, there are 880 state employees on the list whose annualized base salary exceeds $100,000; 12 of those in excess of $200,000. All well deserved, no doubt.

Comments (26)

If it's not already available, a similar database for COP employees is also badly needed (maybe it exists and I just haven't heard of it yet). Some dribbles out here and there like this list of the salaries of Adams' aids in Willy Week, but a comprehensive, searchable list of our local bureaucrats would be especially interesting.

Man, why does the Treasurer get such a pathetic salary? Is it because they figure that people are using the position as a stepping stone to bigger/better things? Certainly, given Ted's background he doesn't need a huge salary, but, still, that's pretty meager for a relatively importance office, no?

I get 3422 people > $100K (do a search on packages >$100K).

So now we know where at least $342M goes each year (or $120/capita.)

Please tell me we are past tipping point. Kitzhaber (I don't even know if Dudley will either) is gonna fix this till it blows up.

"is gonna"

Should be

isn't gonna

Gutsy? Please. I got no problem with open records being open, but gutsy would be publishing the salaries of all the lobbyists and how much they snare for their corporate masters. State employees are just fish in a barrel.

So that's where Gary Blackmer went to work...

Eric
We are working on the City of Portland database. The City is claiming exemption under HIPAA for disclosure of healthcare benefits. A petition has been submitted to the Multnomah County District Attorney.

@ George Anonymuncule Seldes
Unfortunately I do not think lobbyist salaries are public information. We did publish expenditure reports. You can see those one theoregonpolitico.com/govdocs

We are also woring on Portland Public School District database, Oregon University database (cost estimated @ $500),TriMet database and Metro database.

Also, check out the state expenditures database that was published Monday.


Jacob Szeto...thank you.

Just for the record Oregon Politico is a subsidiary of the Cascade Policy Institute so we all know whose axe they are grinding. And where their funding comes from.

Krugman has a useful post on point:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/schoolteachers-driving-cadillacs/

So, how much truth is there to this? State and local employees are paid more, on average, than private-sector workers — about 13 percent more, according to this analysis by John Schmitt. But as Schmitt shows, that’s an apples and oranges comparison: state and local workers are much better educated and somewhat older than private-sector workers, and once you correct for that the comparison actually seems to go the other way.

I think the easy way to think about this is to realize that about half of state and local workers are teachers and academic administrators — which means that they’re college-educated, at minimum. And think about it: how many ambitious young people do you know saying, “My goal in life is to become a high school teacher — that would put me on easy street”?

Yes, firefighters and police get pretty generous pay packages; they also pull people from burning buildings. . . .

A few percent either way in workers’ compensation would not make a big difference to state and local spending. This is a phony issue.

Of course, so were the welfare queens.

Update: A number of commenters have alluded to large unfunded pension liabilities. Two points: first, the fact that state and local governments haven’t been making large enough contributions to pension funds says nothing, one way or the other, about whether workers are overcompensated. Bear in mind that, as Cohn notes, many government employees don’t get Social Security. Second, a “trillion dollar liability” needs to be placed in context: state and local governments spend $2.8 trillion per year. Compare the pension liability with total spending over, say, the expected remaining lifetimes of those workers, and it’s a real problem but not inconsistent with my point that these compensation issues have been grossly overstated.

Oh My! Anon Too,
That's really bothersome.

But what are we supposed to know and think?

That the data is fabricated? Or that it would be more credible if the bureaucrats provided it?
What was the point of your post?

As for the CPI they have been accessing and providing information for the public on nearly every boondoggle, agency and lousy program in sight.

Light rail, urban renewal, transit orientated development etc.

If that's axe grinding we need more of it.

The Oregonian does have a public salary database. It's outdated (18 months old), but seems to have a lot of salary information for local public employees, including City of Portland folks.

http://www.oregonlive.com/special/index.ssf/2009/01/query.html

And I have to agree with Ben's point. The data being provided by Oregon Politico is just that -- data. The conclusions you draw from it are your own, regardless of whether Cascade Policy Institute is behind it or not.

Just for the record Oregon Politico is a subsidiary of the Cascade Policy Institute so we all know whose axe they are grinding. And where their funding comes from.

My politics and opinions are usually 100% the opposite of the Cascade Policy Institutes', but in this case I applaud them for funding Jakob and Oregon Politico's work in building these databases. As taxpayers, we have a right to know what our money is being used for, and other than Social Security Numbers and specific personal health records, there is no justifiable reason for keeping this salary and benefit information from the public.

My wife works for an Oregon government agency, and she shows up in one of Oregon Poltico's databases. I have absolutely no problem with that, other than that the information is out of date.

In this time of shrinking revenues, we need to have a conversation about what roles we want government to have and how much we want to pay government employees to accomplish that work. We need accurate information about what that compensation currently is in order to determine what is appropriate and if there are any unjustifiable distortions in how government employees are paid.

Unlike the CPI, I think certain public employees should be paid MORE than they are currently. The salaries of the high-flying would-be Gordon Gekkos managing the state's investment funds should be cut in half or more and given to teachers, state troopers, and park rangers. Lord knows they do much more useful and beneficial work.

We're it not for the work of Oregon Politico and other watchdogs fighting for this information and making it accessible to all, we could not have this important debate. And anyone who values government openness and transparency should applaud their work, even if we disagree with them about what it should mean or should be used for.

"young people do you know saying, “My goal in life is to become a high school teacher — that would put me on easy street”?"

I think they'd be better off getting a job like a county commissioner where they can work $100K with great benefits - Not even including Bell, CA.

This whole line of reasoning about where do we cut govt gets to be a tu quoque argument. As long as we can find one salary higher than the one we want to cut, all of sudden we can only cut one salary in govt.

Again, we need to do something - Otherwise all of the govt services we cherish will go by the wayside to pay for wages and benefits of public employees.

Jacob wrote: "The City is claiming exemption under HIPAA for disclosure of healthcare benefits. A petition has been submitted to the Multnomah County District Attorney."

Really, now? Because check this out:

http colon //www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/index.html

Examples of organizations that do not have to follow the Privacy and Security Rules include:

life insurers,
employers,
workers compensation carriers,
many schools and school districts,
many state agencies like child protective service agencies,
many law enforcement agencies,
many municipal offices.

And check this out:

What Information Is Protected

Information your doctors, nurses, and other health care providers put in your medical record
Conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others
Information about you in your health insurer’s computer system
Billing information about you at your clinic
Most other health information about you held by those who must follow these laws

It surely looks like the feds believe that employers can legally disclose the costs of providing health care benefits to their employees..... of course, this is all going to give lie to the fact that the public sector makes more and gets better health insurance and does not deserve better retirement packages than the rest of us....

The only real way to know if public employees are overpaid is too start edging down their compensation until their is a significant increase in public employees quiting for private sector jobs. At this point you will know the right level of compensation. Right now, generally speaking, I think public sector compensation is too high relative to this competitive point, because you don't see too many public employees jumping ship for the private sector and this is true since the roaring 1990s. I also think this competitive point will not be reached until average public employee compensation falls 5 to 10 percent below comparable private sector compensation packages as there is value to the longterm job stability of public sector employment versus the private sector.

Eric

Sorry your wife's information is out of date. The data that is provided to us is usually for the last fiscal year, meaning it is possible that it does not match the 2010 fiscal year.

Note that some of the data is incomplete because the government body either does not have it or did not provide it. Also note that some of the databases have been limited to salaries, current health benefits and pension benefits because requesting all other benefits was not feasible. For example fica matches, OPEB and long-term disability have not been included in some of the databases.

Obtaining these databases has been difficult, costly and frustrating, in some cases they are simply beyond our reach like the OUS $600 estimate (originally $2,900 until we asked for a detailed estimate). That is why we have put placeholders with donation buttons; hopefully readers will donate if they really want to see data published. These placeholders also let the public know who charges for what and how much they charge.

I should mention that we plan to publish other types of databases such as the Oregon Ethics Commission's statements of economic interest. If any readers have any suggestions for other data to collect and publish we would be happy to hear from you.

Bob Clark: "The only real way to know if public employees are overpaid is too start edging down their compensation until their is a significant increase in public employees quiting [sic] for private sector jobs. At this point you will know the right level of compensation."

Because turnover doesn't cost anything, and no organization needs its best people -- the ones who leave first as soon as they realize you basically see them as worthless and start jacking around their wages and benefits just to please your own seat-of-the-pants sense of what a job is worth.

George, I'm just curious, how do you propose we solve the budget issues in the state? It seems most of our problems are derived from employee salaries and benefits.

I also am wondering... the fact we've been adequately (sometimes overly) compensating public employees for years means to me we should be getting fairly qualified people for these jobs... yet our schools and government are arguably in shambles. If we're paying more so we can get these "educated" workers, why still so many problems? Shouldn't they do a better job with all this education?

From my random browsing, it seemed like most of the six figure salaries were barely over $100K. The lawyers at least are making a hell of a lot less than they could in private practice. It looks like lawyers in the OR DOJ start at around $60K and can hope to top out at around twice that at the end of their careers with the state. By way of comparison, Jack's old firm pays kids fresh out of law school $115K to start.

"The lawyers at least are making a hell of a lot less than they could in private practice."

So why do they stay then?

"start jacking around their wages and benefits just to please your own seat-of-the-pants sense of what a job is worth."

No, unless you can point me to some mass exodus of public employees. Otherwise, by your reasoning, they are making more than they could in the private sector.

I have no idea what jacking around means anyways. If you mean someone like Sam hiring 30 people to tweet for him, then I guess.

Hey Anon - kids fresh out of law school working for private firms are expected to put in horrendous hours because of their employers billable hours requirements (and newbie's hours can be less billable at times than experienced ones). I used to live with a young lawyer in the late '70s, the work load was atrocious. Somehow I doubt anyone working for the govt puts in those kinds of hours... just sayin'

Big law firms are laying off young lawyers left and right, and many aren't hiring.

"George, I'm just curious, how do you propose we solve the budget issues in the state?"

1) Repeal mandatory minimum sentencing and allow judges to use discretion in criminal sentencing.

2) Decriminalize drug possession offenses entirely. Legalize, tax, and regulate prostitution.

3) Abolish all spending on roads, bridges and highways except through the gas tax -- no money spent on any highway purpose except from gas tax receipts; OR, conversely, abolish the constitutional limitation restricting the gas tax to highway purposes and raise the tax so that it floats and sets a minimum $4.00 per gallon price at the pump.

3a) Bill drivers for all costs associated with emergency and police responses to vehicle accidents.

4) Institute a statewide carbon tax of $100 per ton of emissions (wherever emitted) for electricity delivered and natural gas used in state.

5) Abolish compulsory education after grade 8; continue to offer free high school education on the college prep model to students who pass an admissions exam; offer vocational training and education to students who choose, including serious on-the-job internships and apprenticeships.

6) Abolish compulsory school-start for Kindergarten based on age -- require all children to pass a school-readiness test before admission.

7) Require the parents of children expelled from school to pay tuition for the child to attend an alternative school (if the parent doesn't send the kid to a private school).

8) Provide school-based clinics in all public schools to provide medical care, including dental care, for all children, including prevention of chronic illnesses, especially around diabetes.

9) As revenues flow from above, cut income taxes by raising the standard deduction for Oregon state taxes to higher and higher levels.

"It seems most of our problems are derived from employee salaries and benefits."

Government is a human service business, so salaries and benefits are the biggest piece. No way around that. There are three giants in state spending: Prisons, schools, and health care. Labor is the big cost in the first two; the only way to cut those costs meaningfully is to do less of something -- no longer jailing people for victimless crimes is one big thing, and letting judges use discretion to get the maximum benefit from the minimum sentence is another; with schools, the way to save money is to stop trying to force kids who are unready (at entry) into the mold and keep the unready or unwilling in the system at the other end.

With health care, the savings for the state are in using state dollars to do a much better job keeping young people well, rather than trying to pour in the dollars after chronic conditions develop.

4) Institute a statewide carbon tax of $100 per ton of emissions (wherever emitted) for electricity delivered and natural gas used in state.

Whatever for? To hand over more money to the creeps currently wasting billions while getting nothing for it but higher energy bills?

"Government is a human service business, so salaries and benefits are the biggest piece."

Almost any service business is mostly salaries, yet somehow the survivors manage to eke out a profit in a very competitive environment.

However, govt with no competition, gets more expensive and keeps cutting services while employee comp keeps going up.

I'd still love to hear what either Kitz/Dud are going to do besides costs shifting like Mr Seldes mentions. Something like increasing existing employee efficiencies.


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