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Leavitt no pauper, but his salary slips lower on state list

SHARE Leavitt no pauper, but his salary slips lower on state list

Being governor doesn't pay like it used to.

While he won't be part of the welfare system he shook up, state payroll figures show Gov. Mike Leavitt pulled down $92,475 in 1999, making the state's top-ranking employee just the 164th-highest-paid.

And he's slipping.

In 1994, Leavitt was 118th, pulling down $77,792. When adjusted for inflation, his salary has increased by just 5.7 percent in the five-year period, barely half the rate of other state employees.

"I love the job and I don't do it for the money," Leavitt said. "Some time, it would be interesting to calculate my hourly wage, but I don't think I really want to know."

Leavitt's salary is 35th-highest among governors in the nation, according to the Council of State Governments. He trails the governors in each of the five surrounding states except for Colorado.

The Leavitt family draws two incomes from the state payroll: First lady Jacalyn Leavitt made $2 from taxpayers in 1999.

"It's simply an acknowledgment that she's a full-time state employee so things like workers' comp would kick in if she got injured on the job," said Gary Doxey, the governor's legal counsel. "It's nothing more than a token acknowledgment."

Ninety-one state judges earned more than the governor in 1999, including Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Howe ($106,099).

The list of those earning more than Leavitt also includes Leavitt's former chief of staff, Ted Stewart, now a U.S. District Judge ($122,320); chief medical examiner Dr. Todd Grey ($139,748); State Olympic Coordinator John Fowler ($100,554), who has since been replaced by former Senate President Lane Beattie; more than 20 state doctors, a dozen department heads, five assistant attorneys general and a handful of others.

Utah's highest-paid employee in 1999 was Dr. Stephen Babb, who earned $182,801 managing patient care at the state's American Fork nursing home for mentally disabled patients. He has been on leave with health problems for most of 2000.

Even with Babb's salary, the medical care at the center is better and cheaper than it was when the nursing home contracted with a private medical provider before Babb was hired, said Joseph Gordon, superintendent of the nursing home.

In 1994, the state's highest-paid employee was prison medical director Dr. Robert Jones, who made $134,567. Jones was driven out of state government in 1997 after the death of an inmate strapped to a restraining device and Associated Press reports that Jones worked four jobs on the side, spending little time at the prison.

Jones left Utah for Montana, where he became that state's highest-paid employee.

Jones' replacement, Dr. Richard Michael Garden, earns $157,706, fifth-highest in the state. Twenty of the 23 highest-paid employees are doctors.