Pay Raises Recommended for Gov. Haley, Other Constitutional Officers

May 30, 2014

Investigative Reports

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Nikki HaleyGov. Nikki Haley and the state’s eight other constitutional officers are underpaid – some significantly less – compared to their counterparts in the country.

So says a study quietly authorized by the S.C. General Assembly in 2012. The Nerve recently obtained a copy of the 47-page report, dated January 2013.

The report was done by the Hay Group, an international consulting company based in Philadelphia – the same firm that recommended that S.C. lawmakers receive a pay raise of up to 192 percent, as first reported by The Nerve earlier this month.

As in the lawmaker pay report, the study for constitutional officers recommended that salary hikes be considered for all positions, though specific amounts were not given.

Haley, who has been governor since 2011, makes $106,078 annually. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who is leaving his post to become the College of Charleston president, receives $46,545 annually, though the lieutenant governor’s position is classified as part-time.

Seven other full-time state constitutional officers – Attorney General Alan Wilson, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Adjutant General Bob Livingston, Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Secretary of State Mark Hammond, Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers – each receive $92,007 annually. The salaries of constitutional officers are set by state law (Section 1-1-1210 of the S.C. Code of Laws), which haven’t changed since 1994, according to the Hay Group study.

Still, Haley and the seven other full-time statewide officials are making far more than most South Carolinians. In 2012, the Palmetto State ranked 48th in the nation in per-capita personal income at $34,266, according to the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The Hay Group study said Haley’s salary is 30 percent below the Southern regional average of $137,662 for governors and 25 percent below the national average of $132,729, though The Nerve’s analysis of the data found somewhat smaller differences (23 percent lower than the Southern regional average; 20 percent lower than the national average).

In the Southern region, the highest governor’s salary is $178,356 in Tennessee; the lowest is $86,890 in Arkansas, according to the study. North Carolina’s and Georgia’s governors make $139,590 and $139,339, respectively.

The study found that the salaries of all S.C. constitutional officers are below – by mostly double-digit percentages – the Southern regional and national averages for their respectively positions. The Nerve’s analysis of those averages found that the differences range from 12 percent below the national average for the secretary of state to 53 percent below the regional average for the superintendent of education.

Besides salary information, the study also listed perks for the S.C. constitutional officers, including a taxpayer-funded house, car and cell phone for the governor; and state cars and cell phones for other elected officials.

All of South Carolina’s officers are elected for four-year terms, though the lieutenant governor in 2018 will run on a joint ticket with the governor. In the U.S., all governors and most lieutenant governors, attorneys general, state treasurers and secretaries of state are elected; the other officers are appointed in most states, according to the study.

South Carolina is the only state in which its adjutant general is elected. The S.C. Legislature has approved a proposal to allow voters in November to decide whether the governor should appoint the adjutant general with consent of the Senate.

The Hay Group study found that in the Southern region, half of the states provided salary increases to constitutional officers within the last two years.

The Nerve last week sent written messages to spokespersons for most of the constitutional officers, asking them whether their bosses believe they deserve a pay raise, and if so, why and how much of a raise. Most, including Haley spokesman Doug Mayer, didn’t respond. Wilson spokesman Mark Powell and Hammond spokeswoman Renee Daggerhart declined comment.

The only constitutional officer who responded was Eckstrom, who told The Nerve that he doesn’t believe he needs a raise. The Nerve’s analysis of the Hay Group data found that his salary is 27 percent below the national average and 34 percent below the Southern regional average.

“I ran for this position because it offered the opportunity to use my accounting skills to serve the people of South Carolina,” said Eckstrom, who was the state treasurer before being elected to his current post in 2002. “My compensation is the honor of serving in this office. I think public service is a noble thing.”

Eckstrom, who serves on the five-member S.C. Budget and Control Board, which is chaired by Haley, said he didn’t know who ordered the Hay Group study. He added he doesn’t believe “there’s any momentum” among state leaders to increase constitutional officers’ salaries.

Lawmakers slipped in the authorization for the Hay Group study at the end of Act 278 of 2012, which made reforms to the state retirement system. Online records maintained by Eckstrom’s office show that the BCB paid the Hay Group $60,363 last fiscal year, though the purpose of the expenditure wasn’t specified.

BCB spokeswoman Rebecca Griggs told The Nerve in a written response last week that the study cost was $20,000, though she didn’t immediately respond to follow-up questions about whether that amount covered both studies for the lawmakers and constitutional officers, or just one of those groups; and what the remaining $40,000 was spent on.

The study for constitutional officers recommended three options to “ensure market competitiveness of annual salaries” in South Carolina:

  • Raise base pay at a common percentage;
  • Adjust the salary for each position “closer to the respective regional market average”; or
  • Create three separate pay tiers, one for the governor and lieutenant governor, another for the education superintendent, and a third for the other constitutional officers.

“While SC was competitive in some areas, annual salaries for most Constitutional Officers are low vs. other states, with some positions significantly low,” according to the study’s executive summary. “There have not been pay adjustments for Constitutional Officers since 1994; therefore, Hay Group recommends that SC consider making adjustments to the annual salaries of Constitutional Officers.”

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thnerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.