More than 270 Montana state employees make more money than Gov. Brian Schweitzer, according to an analysis by the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. Schweitzer's annual salary is $100,120, which doesn't include perks such as his free stay at the governor's mansion or his use of the state airplane. The governor's pay ranks 274th of the more than 22,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal Montana state government and University System employees, the payroll analysis showed. Schweitzer makes less than the head football and men's basketball coaches at the Univers i ty of Montana and Montana State University and the head women' s basketball coach at UM. Their salaries range from $105,500 to $130,000, not including separate endorsement deals, radio and TV show fees and summer camps. The governor said he doesn't mind not being the highest-paid employee of Montana government. "I'm probably the only person working for the state who can say I'm plumb happy with what I make," Schweitzer said. "I didn't even ask what I would make until after I was elected. "I didn't do it for the money," he said. "I'm doing it as a public service." Under state law, the salaries paid to Schweitzer and other state elected officials are determined by averaging the pay for those jobs in Idaho, North Dakota, South Daakota, Wyoming and Montana every two years. Montana pays its elected officials the five-state average per job. The state's highest-paid employee at $220,000 a year is Laurence Hubbard, president and CEO of the Montana State Fund, the state workers' compensation company. Hubbard said the State Fund hires a consulting firm to compare its salaries with those of similar agencies elsewhere. He said the State Fund's board of directors uses that information to determine his salary. Hubbard added that his salary is less than the regional average pay of about $261,000 for CEOs of workers' compensation agencies. The state's second-highest-paid employee is Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns, who makes $203,862 a year. Next in line are the presidents of the state's two major universities, George Dennison of the University of Montana and Geoff Gamble of Montana State University, who each are paid $197,925. Both positions also come with state-provided homes. Dennison and Gamble rank last in the nation in pay among the 219 doctoral institutions, said Kevin McRae, director of labor relations and personnel for the University System. And their pay is 65 percent of the average for presidents of universities that grant doctorates, he said. In recent years, the Board of Regents has set the presidents' salaries using a regional average of similar universities, which has helped increase their pay, McRae said. The regents set Stearns' salary at 101 percent to 105 percent of the pay for the presidents of the two largest universities, McRae said. Rounding out the 10 highest-paid state employees are:
Virginia Hill, a psychiatrist for the Department of Public Health and Human Services, which oversees the state mental hospital, $191,118.
Allen Harmsen, professor of veterinary molecular biology at Montana State University, $186,872.
J. Thomas Gray Jr., psychiatrist for the Department of Public Health and Human Services, $185,911.
Clifford Sheets, chief investment officer, Board of Investments, $185,000.
Daniel Hash, dentist, Department of Corrections, $177,027.
David Schaefer, psychiatrist, Department of Corrections, $174,962.
The state has 12,900 regular full- and part-time employees and 14,500 short-time and seasonal workers, excluding the University System, said Randy Morris, administrator of the state Personnel Division. The average full-time state employee is paid $38,550 annually, he said. Morris said the state's pay plan lags behind the regional and external market for similar jobs by about 9 percent, according to four data sources the agency uses. He said the statistics were compiled in 2006 and are slightly dated. Benefits offered by the state of Montana health insurance, pension and annual leave or vacation average $15,525 per employee, raising the average total compensation package to $54,075, Morris said. Montana's benefits are about 6 percent higher than paid by the private sector and public agencies in the region for similar jobs, he said. "So when you look at our total compensation package, we lag the market an average of 3.9 percent," Morris said. State Labor Department statistics for 2005, the latest year available, show the state's annual average wage at $29,155, or 49th nationally. Government wages here averaged $34,295 in 2005, while private-sector annual wages averaged $27,936. These figures do not include benefits.