The State Office That Paid $6.5 Million in Bonuses

The Associated Press found recently fired or resigned land office staff were given millions in bonuses.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 21, 2015 10:48 am

How much does the Texas government give in bonuses to state workers?

It may be a more useful question than you might imagine because we’re now learning that in one department alone — the General Land Office — more than $6.5 million in bonuses were handed out starting in 2003 and continuing until this year, according to the Associated Press.

Now, many of those who received large bonuses have been fired or voluntarily left in what amounts to a shakeup by the new Land Commissioner, George P. Bush.

David McSwane, with the Austin American-Statesman, says what Bush is calling a “reboot,” his critics – including his predecessor former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson – are calling a “purge.” Bush says the bonuses were meant to reward “good work,” a practice common in private industry.

“You don’t see it a lot among public employees,” McSwane says. “This is a significant amount.”

Since Bush took office in January, 111 employees have been fired, retired or quit, McSwane says – some who had received those bonuses.

“He’s really sending the message that ‘This is my agency and things are going to be different here,’” McSwane says. “A big part of that is the conservative belt-tightening mantra.”

Bush has introduced “zero-base budgeting” that calls for department heads to justify every single line item, McSwane says.

“It’s definitely more than getting rid of a handful of people,” he says.

Hear more in the audio player above.