Fum­ble by White: Mack Brown makes far more than Perry

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO &STATE - By W. Gardner Selby

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!

Bill White

State­ment: Gov. Rick Perry is ‘by far and away the high­est-paid state em­ployee on an hourly ba­sis.’

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