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Peninsula Daily News
OLYMPIA – The best-paying jobs in state government are in higher education.
Of those, the very best are in athletics.
And despite being the state's chief executive, Gov. Chris Gregoire is far from being the state's highest-paid employee.
A database of all state employee salaries -- available to search at http://tinyurl.com/ofmsalaries and http://tinyurl.com/statesalaries — puts Gregoire's gross pay in 2010 well below that of nearly 1,000 other people on the state's payroll.
Peninsula College President Tom Keegan in Port Angeles earns more than Gregoire — $204,434.
Gregoire earned $166,891.
In fact, hundreds of other top earners were in the field of higher education as coaches, administrators and faculty.
University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian ranked No. 1 with a whopping $1,982,918 in gross pay followed by Lorenzo Romar, the Husky men's basketball coach, at $1,147,050.
Ken Bone, Washington State University head basketball coach was third, with $746,416, and Husky assistant football coach Nick Holt fourth at $652,229.
But the Office of Financial Management — the agency that provided the data — noted that Sarkisian and other athletics coaches at UW and WSU aren't paid with taxpayer money.
They are paid from ticket sales and gate receipts for sporting events.
And university researchers, who are also at the top of the list, are paid through research grants, not taxes or tuition, according to Financial Management officials.
WSU President Elson Floyd was the highest-paid state employee in 2010 who wasn't a coach.
He was No. 5, at $625,000, just ahead of WSU football coach Paul Wulff's $551,670.
Floyd returns $100,000 of that salary to the state because of the financial crisis.
UW President Mark Emmert was paid $492,178, but only worked nine months. He left Oct. 1 last year to head up the NCAA.
His replacement, Michael Young, wasn't chosen until this April.
Young's annual pay is $550,000 a year, about $100,000 less than Emmert's contract.
All but one of the first 55 salary slots went to coaches, administrators, professors or other staff at either UW or WSU.
The exception was Evergreen State College President Thomas Purce, who was paid $318,533.
At No. 56 was the first state employee who doesn't work for a university or college, Gary Bruebaker, the chief investment officer for the State Investment Board, who received $303,582.
Gregoire was 955th on the list of state employees, which includes more than 150,000 names — everyone on the state payroll in 2010.
Every two years, the Office of Financial Management produces a report on how much state employees earn.
The data covers gross earnings of those paid through the payroll system of the state and higher education institutions.
Sums include base pay plus any additional compensation such as overtime, standby or assignment pay before taxes or other deductions — but the payments do not include benefits such as pension payments or health care.
Names can be downloaded into a spreadsheet or one can use links at http://tinyurl.com/ofmsalaries to selectively view salaries of employees of a single agency, commission, department or community college.
There's nothing on those hired since Jan. 1 because this report deals only with those who worked all or part of 2010.
Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Squim, and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, who represents the district that includes Jefferson and Clallam counties, each made $42,106.
State legislators — who approve the budget that pays state employees' salaries — make $42,106, unless they hold a special position, such as House Speaker
Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, who each were paid $50,106 in 2010.
Attorney General Rob McKenna was one of the higher paid elected officials at $151,718 — but still about $15,000 less than Gregoire, meaning he would get about a 10 percent raise if elected to the Governor's Mansion in 2012.
Secretary of State Sam Reed earned $117,782. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen made $111,623.
At the tail end of the report are two checks for 19 cents written to former state workers to cover a last bit of unpaid vacation.
Of the first 1,000 people on the list – those who make about $164,000 or more – the vast majority were at UW.
Thirty-three work for the Department of Social and Health Services, primarily as physicians, psychiatrists or clinic directors; nine work for the Department of Corrections, either as physicians or in health care related jobs.
The only other office with more than two employees in the top 1,000 was the State Investment Board, which has six.
Jason Mercier, a state budget watchdog at the Washington Policy Center, said the heavy concentration of university salaries at the top of the list is no surprise, although he thought listing coaches who are paid from ticket sales and gate receipts was “a bit of misnomer.”
Higher education draws from a wider range of funding sources than general government agencies, Mercier said.
But it is also spends a much higher percentage of its money on salaries.
A recent study by the policy center showed that for state agencies outside of higher education, about 15.5 percent of their total spending went for compensation in 2007-'09, the last period for which adequate data is available.
For higher education, it was more than four times that – 64 percent went for wages and salaries.
“Whether these compensation figures are too high or too low will remain the subject of much debate,” Mercier said.
But wages and salaries are one of the costs that state officials control and can adjust.
Earlier this year, the Legislature reduced the budgets for state colleges and universities, and gave the schools the authority to raise tuition.
The schools quickly exercised it; UW tuition went up 20 percent for the coming school year and WSU raised its tuition by 16 percent.
Anticipating questions or criticism over the number of high salaries for coaches, administrators, professors and other employees at the University of Washington, OFM included explanations in the “frequently asked questions” it posted on its website with the compensation lists.
Coaches and other members of the athletic departments of UW and WSU are paid from ticket and gate receipts, not from the general fund or tuition, the state agency said:
“The UW competes for exceptionally talented people with advanced degrees of specialization in a very competitive international marketplace, as do the other public institutions of higher education.
“Many of the highest-paid employees at the UW, for example, are in high-demand, high-paying fields such as medicine, computer science, genome sciences and other fields in which the market determines the salary scale.”
Not all the salaries on the list are paid with state funds, the department added.
Some state employees receive at least part of their compensation from federal grants, and many employees of the universities and colleges are paid from public or private grants, contracts and programs that generate separate revenue.
Employees of the investment board are paid from an average set after a salary survey of other pension funds, which helps the board “attract and retain investment professionals.”
The salaries, and all other board expenses, are paid from investment earnings.
The agency also notes that state employees' salaries are public record.
Only a few exceptions, such as employees who are victims of domestic violence, can be withheld.