COLUMBIA, S.C. — A legislative panel has approved pay increases of 7 percent and 8 percent for 81 state agency directors – their first pay increases since 2007.
The 7 percent increase will go to state agency directors and technical college presidents. The 8 percent increase is for presidents of four-year state colleges and universities.
The average salary for an agency director is $123,764.40 a year, not including nine vacant positions. The increases will cost the state $640,220.08, according to an analysis of a state salaries, done by the Hay Group. Agencies will pay for them by “shuffling money around,” said state Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richland, a member of the Agency Head Salary Commission.
Since 2007, lawmakers have increased state workers’ salaries three times: 3 percent in 2006-07, 1 percent in 2008-09 and 3 percent in 2012-13. Those raises did not apply to agency directors, whose salaries are set by the Salary Commission.
The last raise for agency directors was 8 percent in 2007. The last raise for college presidents, paid for with state money, was 13 percent in 2007. A review of agency director salaries, by the Hay Group, found the amount the state pays “continues to lose competitiveness relative to other states,” adding it is “becoming more difficult to attract qualified candidates, especially to largest agencies.”
“We just didn’t fly by the seat of our pants and do this,” Howard said. “Agency heads have a tremendous responsibility and a lot of those guys have not had raises in quite some time.”
Those receiving raises include USC president Harris Pastides, who also received a 20 percent raise from the USC Foundation earlier this year, and Department of Revenue director Jim Etter, whose agency is under fire for a data breach that exposed the personal tax information of 4.5 million South Carolina taxpayers.
State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said the commission could not pick and choose who to give raises to. “We probably should be reviewing whether (Etter) sticks around or not,” said Pitts, who voted against the 8 percent increase for four-year college and university presidents.
Tom Hatfield, appointed to the commission by former Gov. Mark Sanford, voted against all the raises. He said the state should have delayed the raises until after federal officials resolve the “fiscal cliff” – the nickname given to a series of budget cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January – that Hatfield fears could plunge the country into another recession.
“These people are not what I would call ‘hurting,’” Hatfield said, referring to the average salary of the agency directors. “Somebody not getting a rise for four years, in itself, is not a reason to give them a raise.”
Agencies covered by the Agency Head Salary Commission
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.