Fumble by White: Mack Brown makes far more than Perry
Bill White, the Democratic nominee for governor, said last month that GOP Gov. Rick Perry lazes about.
“If you divide the hours (Perry) works in by the amount he’s paid, then he’s by far and away the highest-paid state employee on an hourly basis,” White said. White’s campaign cited Perry’s public schedule for January through May and its calculation that Perry accumulated 145½ hours of scheduled events in the period. Based on Perry’s $150,000 annual salary, the White campaign calculated his “hourly” pay rate to be about $428.
White spokeswoman Katy Bacon noted that Mack Brown, head coach of the University of Texas football team, is the highest-paid state employee, “but you can bet he works a lot more
than seven hours a week.”
We’re not testing Brown’s work ethic, but we’re game for White’s charge.
Presuming a 40-hour workweek, Brown’s hourly rate breaks down to nearly $2,452 on his $5.1 million salary. Presuming a 60-hour week — head football coaches work notoriously long hours — Brown’s hourly rate drops to nearly $1,635. And if Brown somehow worked every hour of every day of the year, his hourly rate would be $582 — still more than the White campaign’s tally for Perry.
Another UT coach and the head football coaches at Texas A&M and Texas Tech each make $1.5 million or more, as noted in a chart compiled this year by the online Texas Tribune listing the highest-paid state workers. Assuming all work 60 hours a week, their salaries translate to hourly rates of $481 or more.
Then again, the argument is often made that college coaches like Brown, whose salary derives from sports revenues, are in a special category. What about other state employees?
We asked the state comp- troller’s office to break out the state’s highest-paid workers, including Perry. The agency, citing salary figures as of April, generated a list taking into account about 157,000 state workers, excluding college and university employees, which it does not track.
The compilation suggests Perry’s annual salary is less than what the state pays 313 other nonuniversity state workers, topped by Britt Harris, chief investment officer of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, at $480,000. We called the system and inquired into how many hours Harris works. Spokesman Howard Goldman said “well over 40” hours a week. Assuming Harris works an average of 60 hours weekly, his hourly rate runs about $154. If he’s averaging 50 hours a week, the rate would be about $185.
Perry’s hourly wage is more than double those amounts, per White’s calculation of his working hours based on events posted on his official schedule.
This raises the question: Is the schedule an accurate indicator of how much time Perry spends on the job? That’s a toughie, because the schedule is far from complete, making it hard for anyone to gauge how the governor spends his time. In 2008, the Austin Ameri- can-Statesman reviewed the calendars for the state’s top six statewide elected officials covering January through March of that year. The newspaper found that the officials’ calendars “did not prove to be comprehensive accountings of their working hours.”
We didn’t hear back from Perry’s campaign or his state office. But we came across this reaction to the White campaign calculation from Perry, as reported by Hearst Newspapers columnist Peggy Fikac: “If they’ve made anybody that can outwork me yet, please introduce me to him or her. Texans know I am mobile, I am agile, and I’m going to continue doing work for ’em 24/7. Just because it doesn’t show up on my schedule doesn’t mean I’m not out working for the people of the state of Texas, thank you very much.”
Seeking historical perspective, we called chiefs of staff to the governors preceding Perry: George W. Bush and Ann Richards.
Joe Allbaugh, who was Gov. Bush’s chief of staff, said Bush’s official schedule didn’t reflect his workdays, which often ran from early in the morning into evenings, especially if lawmakers were in session.
“This is foolish and hogwash for the White campaign to draw this type of comparison,” Allbaugh said. “All public officials put in more hours than they’re paid. It doesn’t matter if you’re Democratic, Republican or Martian, your public service is not for the money.”
We asked Allbaugh, who backs Perry’s re-election, whether it’s possible Perry enjoys a lot of downtime. Allbaugh replied: “I don’t know if it’s possible to do that or not. People need to remember, that person is governor full time. … Hurricanes, oil spills, they don’t call up (from) 8 to 5 (saying:) ‘By the way, is the governor in?’”
Austin lobbyist John Fainter, a chief of staff for Richards when she was governor and earlier served as secretary of state with Gov. Mark White, said governors don’t ever get away from work. “There are emergencies. Things come up,” said Fainter, who has given money to Perry’s campaigns. “The schedule is largely irrelevant as to the time they actually spend on duties.”
We get it: Texas governors don’t punch time clocks.
Where does that leave White’s statement that Perry is “far and away” the highestpaid state worker on an hourly basis?
For starters, Perry’s hourly wage as calculated by White is less than what we calculated for several state employees.
Most important, he assumes the public schedule from Perry’s office accounts for all his working hours. But according to the Statesman’s past reporting and two veterans of the governor’s office, such schedules are woefully incomplete. (Perry and other officials could easily head off such scrutiny by publishing schedules that actually reflect reality.)
White could have sought an accounting of how the governor spends his time without cobbling together comparisons that don’t hold up.
Pants on Fire!
Statement: Gov. Rick Perry is ‘by far and away the highest-paid state employee on an hourly basis.’