Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How come DFACs workers are taking furloughs and the governor isn't?

Fire and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine may be the biggest media hound of all public officials in Georgia*, and this email from his commission's media office, and not his campaign, may seem kind of gubernatorial campaigny. But he suggests a fair question:
Atlanta – Saying that thousands of state employees could be furloughed shortly and other Georgians are losing their jobs daily, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine called on Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other constitutional officers today to take a voluntary salary reduction.

Oxendine, who has voluntarily taken a five percent pay cut since the fall of last year, said our state’s leadership should set the standard in this economy.

“I've taken a five percent pay cut and I challenge the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other Constitutional officers to go there with me,” Oxendine said. “We may be in for one or two rough years with the state budget and now is the time to lead.”
Constitutional officer is kind of a vague phrase. The job of county tax commissioners is listed in the Georgia Constitition

But Section III of Article II of the Constitution lays out the removal process for "public officials," which it defines as "the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the State School Superintendent, the Commissioner of Insurance, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Labor, and any member of the General Assembly.

General Assembly members make about $17,300 a year, I can never remember whether that includes their per diems and other reimbursements. Also, upper-level members make more a little more and the Speaker of the House makes about $99,000.

These are the other state Constitutional officers's salaries, according to www.opengeorgia.gov. I'm not including travel/expense allowances, since the governor basically has his own helicopter and the lieutenant governor can get someone to buy him dinner pretty much any time he likes.
Gov. Sonny Perdue: $137,310
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: $90,275
Secretary of State Karen Handel: $128,890
Attorney General Thurbert Baker: $135,784
Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox: $128,528
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine: $118,641
Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin: $119,786
Commissioner of Labor Michael Thurmond: 119,799
It's worth noting that, as CEO of a $20 billion business (more like $40 million when you add in the federal money that flows through state government) Gov. Perdue is probably underpaid. You could make the same argument for these other top officials, as well as department heads managing mutlti-billion-dollar budgets.

As more budget cuts are rolled out, it will be interesting to see if some of the more political jobs — direct administrative staff, press offices, legislative assistants — are hit with furloughs.

* Uh, no offense, Mr. Commissioner.

UPDATE: State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said this issue has been discussed in the Republican caucus. He said there's a Constitutional prohibition against lowering the salaries of elected officials. But he also said there's talk among General Assembly members of simply writing checks to the state treasury to get around this, particularly if more state employees are furloughed.

1 comment:

Nick said...

I wonder if you will ever get the answer to this question. Especially since the furloughs just keep getting deeper and deeper.