Politics & Government

California state pay increased $1.1 billion last year

California State Controller’s Office

California state workers’ salaries rose a total $1.1 billion last year, according to new payroll data, while the number of state employees also grew.

The State Controller’s Office wrote paychecks for $16.43 billion in 2014, up 7 percent from the year before. The increase followed three years of essentially flat payroll costs for the state.

Meanwhile, the number of full-time and part-time state workers grew from about 242,000 to about 245,000, or almost 2 percent.

The data, which exclude state university employees and legislative staff, show the largest dollar-amount payroll increases occurred in the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (up $279 million); the prison system’s medical caregiver, California Correctional Health Care Services ($91 million); the Department of State Hospitals ($82 million); the California Highway Patrol ($71 million); and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection ($68 million).

The numbers reflect how departments have emerged from furloughs that ended in 2013 and how pay raises negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown have prodded payrolls upward.

Some of the increases “are due to natural growth in program areas,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said Friday in an email, and may indicate that departments are filling positions left empty by a record number of retirements the last few years.

Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, stopped recruiting cadets and closed its Galt academy as part of a 2011 program that shrank the state prison population and started sending more convicted criminals to local jails.

Now, however, the state is scrambling to restock its correctional-officer ranks after years of attrition. “We’re running as many as four academies at once,” corrections spokesman Bill Sessa said.

Despite the state’s higher payroll last year, inflation-adjusted salaries remained about 6 percent lower in 2014 than in 2008, just before then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed costs through mandatory furloughs.

Among departments with payroll costs of $10 million or more, the largest salary increases in percentage terms took place at the California Health Benefits Exchange and the state’s High Speed Rail Authority.

The exchange, which manages California’s version of the federal Affordable Care Act, saw its payroll grow 123 percent. The rail authority’s payroll increased by 72 percent as it begins construction on one of Brown’s favored projects.

Salary totals rose between 18 percent and 28 percent for the Water Resources Control Board, Veterans Affairs department and the Office of Inspector General (which provides oversight to corrections), rounding out the top five agencies with the largest-percentage increases in payroll.

Meanwhile, the average annual state worker total pay last year was $67,062, including part-timers.

The Sacramento Bee was able to match annual pay data for about 180,000 employees. Of those, roughly 70 percent earned at least 5 percent more last year than the year before.

Still, nearly 1 in 5 state employees earned $100,000 or more, a 30 percent increase from 2013. About one-quarter of the six-figure salaries went to managers and supervisors.

Fifty-four employees earned more than $400,000, up from 37 in 2013. Prison psychiatrists and doctors were the most common names on that list, followed by executives at CalPERS. Ted Eliopoulos, CalPERS’ chief investment officer, topped the list with $745,000 earned last year including base pay and bonuses.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

The Sacramento Bee’s searchable California state-pay database has been updated with 2014 information. You can search or sort by name, department and pay amount, and look up salary histories dating back to 2007. Go to: sacb.ee/statepaydata

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