77,000 feds earn more than their governors, report finds

More than 77,000 federal workers earned more than the governors of their states in 2009, according to a new report.

The research found 18,351 federal medical officers earned more than their governors -- the most common occupation to out-earn states' top government executives. More than 5,000 air traffic controllers, 4,346 attorneys, 16 outdoor recreation planners and one interior designer also earned more than the governors of their respective states, the report said.

The Congressional Research Service report, requested by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., based its comparison on 2009 federal salary data from the Office of Personnel Management and 2009 salaries of governors from the Council of State Governments. The research is dated May 6 and was first reported Tuesday by The Washington Times.

The report did not examine salaries of employees in the Office of the Vice President, White House, CIA, U.S. Postal Service or a handful of other government agencies.

Governor salaries ranged between $70,000 in Maine and $212,179 in California in 2009, according to the report, which noted that California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger waived his payment while in office. The governors of Virginia and New Jersey tied for fifth highest salaries in 2009 at $175,000; in Virginia, 606 feds earned more than that figure.

Colorado had the most federal employees -- 10,875 -- with salaries higher than the state's governor, who earned $90,000 in 2009. Maryland placed second, with 7,283 feds earning more than Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's salary of $150,000 -- including 2,266 medical officers, 51 employees in human resources, and 30 employees in information and arts. Delaware had the fewest number of federal employees -- 37 -- earning more than the governor, the report found.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, pointed to proposed legislation that would cap at $200,000 federal reimbursement for contractor salaries.

"The government's paying $700,000 and more for contractor salaries, and Sen. Coburn worries about the pay of physicians who care for wounded soldiers?" Beth Moten, AFGE's legislative and political director, asked in an emailed statement.

In an emailed response to Government Executive, Coburn said no one would disagree that federal employees should be paid adequately. "We can all agree on the importance of paying highly specialized doctors to care for wounded soldiers and veterans, or skilled engineers for their services," he said. "However, when our nation is over $14 trillion in debt and American families are struggling to make ends meet, this report begs for an explanation of why interior designers, recreation planners and other public employees are enjoying higher salaries than state governors."

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