Friday, September 30, 2005

Gov. Riley Gives Insurance Buddies A Fat Raise!

Kudos to The Montgomery Advertiser for this Slam Dunk Editorial!!

Montgomery Advertiser

If Alabama state government is going to lead the Southeast in some category, it shouldn't be in pay ing the highest salary in the region to a state insurance administrator.

But if Gov. Bob Riley doesn't rethink his administration's proposal, Alabama taxpayers will have the distinction of leading the region in what they pay the administrator of the State Employees Insurance Board.

This week the State Personnel Board - at the urging of Riley's administration - voted 3-2 to raise the pay range for William Ashmore, executive director of the State Employees Insurance Board, and his top deputy, Gary Matthews.

Ashmore's salary will go from $146,179 to $157,601. Matthews' salary will go from $96,075 to $117,028.

Interestingly, those increases came on top of a 6 percent salary increase for state employees that went into effect with the current pay period.

In pushing for the salary increases, Finance Director Jim Main cited work by Ashmore and Matthews on a program he said would save the state millions of dollars on health care for prison inmates.

Fine. Give them a plaque and a pat on the back. At most, the administration should get the Legislature to approve a one-time bonus for the two insurance executives. But Matthews was already the second highest paid state insurance director in the region, and coming up with ways to save the state's taxpayers money is what he and his assistant already were paid handsomely to do.

A problem with Main's pay-range proposal is that by increasing the range for these positions, the new salary will become the base for all who later fill the posts - none of whom will have had anything to do with coming up with this purported cost-savings.

Any administration claim that the top two administrators will somehow have to work harder under this new arrangement would be silly. Their agency may have more responsibility, but taxpayers should hope these two were working a full work week already.

Remember, they were already among the best paid in the Southeast. And that is comparing their salaries to some state insurance administrators who have responsibility over both state employee and state teacher insurance programs. Those roles are split in Alabama.

It is telling that the Personnel Department staff recommended denying the raise request, with the board agenda stating: "Information could not be found which would support either of these increases."

Alabama's overall pay for state employees is not particularly out of line, but the state has too many top public officials who are among the better paid of their counterparts in the nation, with the most egregious example being the state's appellate judges, who lead the nation in salaries.

The governor needs to recognize that these latest pay increases are unseemly in a state with a per capita income well below the national average.

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