State agencies must deal with cuts to their budgets for the 2012-13 budget cycle, but it’s hard to see the financial pain for leaders at the Texas Department of Transportation.
The Austin American-Statesman obtained TxDOT’s salary information through an open records request, revealing higher salaries and new positions:
“The average salary of TxDOT's 10 highest paid workers topped $200,000 as of April 1 — 21.4 percent above that average a year earlier. The top three salaries, at an average of almost $251,000, were 42.5 percent higher than the top three salaries' average a year earlier
“Some of those executives and Texas Transportation Commission board members say the pay boost is necessary to lure talent from the private sector to help TxDOT negotiate complex, high-dollar, public-private partnerships largely for toll road projects.”
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson, a longtime aide to Republican former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and Gov. Rick Perry, is making $292,500. Wilson served as Texas secretary of state for about a year before a stint with a utility and then back to the public sector.
Wilson’s pay is $100,000 higher than the $192,000 earned by his TxDOT predecessor Amadeo Saenz. The commissioners wanted to pay Wilson $381,000 when he started last fall, but public criticism derailed it.
Meanwhile, the American-Statesman reports some of the new positions Wilson created:
- A director of innovative finance and debt management, $250,000 a year.
- A chief planning/projects officer and a chief administrative and strategy officer, both at $245,000 a year.
- A director of planning, $195,000 a year.
- A project management director, $160,000 a year.
- Directors of performance excellence and operational excellence, each making $135,000 a year.
- Chief of staff, $135,000 a year. Hired for this position was Scott Haywood, who also formerly worked for Gramm and Perry and in the secretary of state's office.
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said the additional TxDOT administrative positions and the higher pay has come with little public awareness. He also questioned the rationale for this at a time when Perry and lawmakers have asked agencies to do more with less money.
Meanwhile, the newspaper reported that none of TxDOT’s district engineers, the people with the most contact with the public in its 25 regional offices, have received raises in the 15 months since April 1, 2011. However, this is under review.
Contact Curt Olson at email@example.com or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.
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Photo of 'desert road into the mountains' by flickr user mkrigsman, used via a Creative Commons license.