Panel OKs raises for S.C. executives

COLUMBIA -- Big raises are on the way for some of the state's top administrators.

Over the objection of Gov. Mark Sanford, the state's Budget and Control Board on Tuesday gave MUSC President Ray Greenberg a nearly $36,000 raise and approved salary increases for nine other executive-level state employees.

In addition to Greenberg's pay bump, which boosts his salary to $232,064:

• Frank Fusco, the Budget and Control director Sanford forced out in January only to have the lawmakers on the board hire him back, will see his salary climb to $173,380 from $150,458.

• Piedmont Technical College President Lex Walters in Greenwood will earn $121,485 compared to his current $101,533.

The salary increases passed the five-member board with a vote of 3-2 with Sanford and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom dissenting.

"I know of no plans of any of these folks leaving. Some of them have only been here two or three months. Now we're giving them raises?" Sanford said, noting the state will start the new fiscal year with a deficit unless state revenues increase.

Emma Forkner, for example, state Health and Human Services director, was named to her post in late July. Her salary will increase to $144,746 from $135,000.

Others are defending the increase as a way to ensure the state remains competitive in recruiting and retaining key personnel. Current salaries for the 10 agencies' heads are below the state's acceptable minimum, according to a state salary study conducted this past summer.

The pay increases, which go into effect Dec. 1, will bring the 10 employees up to the state's acceptable minimum, said Donna Traywick, chief staff person for the state's Agency Head Salary Commission.

"(The study) is a neutral, objective way to determine pay," Traywick said. "The intent is to take it out of any good old boy system or any favoritism and determine what this position's worth is in the marketplace."

Since 1986, the state has conducted salary surveys every three years to ensure pay for agency heads aligns with pay for similar positions in other states.

State Treasurer Converse Chellis said approving the pay raises means state government is running more like a business.

"The board's action today was a step toward more responsible government. If we can work to bring more higher-paying jobs to our state, everyone benefits," Chellis said.

Some point out that Sanford has not always been on the conservative side of salary debates.

Earlier this year, the Agency Head Salary Commission recommended the salary for the new director of insurance, Scott Richardson, be set at $112,000.

But the governor rejected it and proposed Richardson be paid more than $137,000, the maximum for the position.