Gov. Huntsman's Staffers Paid $10,000 More Than Walker's

Gov. Huntsman's Staffers Paid $10,000 More Than Walker's

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Salaries of Gov. Jon Huntsman's staffers average about $10,000 more than those of predecessor Olene Walker's staff and $13,000 more than those of former Gov. Mike Leavitt's workers, a Salt Lake newspaper said.

Huntsman's 29 employees average $56,778, Walker's 27 workers earned $46,887 and Leavitt's 28 staffers averaged $43,387, a Salt Lake Tribune review of salaries concluded.

Some of that growth is due to annual cost-of-living raises.

Huntsman also argues that state government is much more complex, with a budget that has grown from $7 billion to $9 billion since Leavitt's administration.

There are "a lot more moving parts, a larger population base," Huntsman said.

Some government observers said Huntsman's philosophy overemphasizes private sector experience and could unnecessarily encourage government expansion.

"The only way that this could be justified is if these new people generate some serious and quantifiable improvements in how the state operates," said Mike Jerman, vice president of the business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association. "Justifying salaries based on the size of government is a built-in incentive to grow government."

Huntsman said his staffers, especially his senior advisers, are sacrificing,

"Everyone took a pay cut coming on board. Even the governor took a pay cut," said Huntsman, who on top of his $104,100 salary earned $24 million this year when his father's family-owned chemical company became publicly traded.

Mike Mower, deputy chief of staff, later said it was a majority of employees, who took a pay cut to work for Huntsman, but some, like Chief of Staff Neil Ashdown and Communications Director Tammy Kikuchi actually are paid more than they earned in their previous jobs.

"The attempt was to basically try to get them as close as I could to whatever their private sector salary was, knowing there would still be a significant gap in compensation," Huntsman said.

Ashdown's salary is $115,738 and Kikuchi makes $103,836, the newspaper reported.

Huntsman said he would push for raises for rank-and-file state employees who are paid less than their counterparts in the private sector as part of his annual budget to be released in December.

Former Chief of Staff Jason Chaffetz said that during the transition last year, he and Huntsman decided a core group of staffers should be paid in the same range. All make at least $100,000, and Chris Roybal, the governor's economic development adviser, is paid most, making almost $130,000.

Huntsman General Counsel Mike Lee started at $90,000, comparable with the salaries paid the previous two governors' attorneys, but is now making slightly more than $112,000. Huntsman said Lee previously earned three times that amount as an attorney in Washington, D.C.

"I made the salary adjustment to keep him and I fully expect that I won't be able to keep people like Mike for more than a year or two," Huntsman said.

Huntsman argues his higher salaries are a good deal for taxpayers.

"I feel very comfortable that we have a lean staff, given the many responsibilities that we have," he said. "I can't imagine the rates of our compensation or ... the number of state employees would be out of kilter."

Jerman said, "The issue isn't whether or not these people worked in the private sector. The issue is 'What do taxpayers need to pay to get a certain level of results?'

"The people the governor has now are not the only people who could do this work," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All

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