As workers at the Texas Department of Health and Human Services continue to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey, along with their many other responsibilities – often involving long hours and low pay – news broke Wednesday that some executives at the agency have received substantial raises this year
Bob Garrett, who has been reporting this story for the Dallas Morning News says the raises have gone to the top tier of HHS leadership.
“Well, it’s sort of prosperity at the top, and austerity at the bottom at the super-agency for health and human services,” Garrett says.
Garrett says 11 HHS administrators earn salaries between $200,000 and $260,000 per year. Ten years ago, no executive earned over $200,000.
Executive pay increases have corresponded with the expansion of the agency, which now contains multiple entities that were once independent, or were part of other agencies.
“The number of workers has more than tripled, from just under 12,000 to 40,000,” Garratt says. “But…the high-rollers if you wanna call em – the ones making 200 grand or more – have more than tripled in number, from three, when [Gov. Greg] Abbott took office to 11 now.”
Meanwhile, rank-and-file workers haven’t had raises, and have lost ground, due to increased health care and pensions costs, Garrett says.
“The top executive at the commission, Charles Smith, did not even seek a pay raise for those folks at the bottom before last [legislative] session,” Garrett says.
Garrett says HHS staff have been overwhelmed, not just by the number of people seeking help after Harvey, but by the agency’s own continuing transformation and consolidation.
“Some of it allows a lot of ‘big brother’ oversight of these workers, I’m told,” Garrett says “like being questioned when they’re away from their computer screens for ten minutes.”
Garrett notes that defenders of the executive pay hikes say they’re needed to attract the best leadership. But the inequity between rank-and-file workers and management at HHS also mirrors the private sector, he says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.