Top Texas Social Services Officials Get Big Salary Hikes

Top officials with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are getting big salary increases at a time when the agency's rank-and-file workers have gone without raises for years, according to a newspaper report Thursday.

Public records examined by The Dallas Morning News show 11 administrators now make at least $200,000 a year, almost two years after there were three and 10 years after there were none (although the commission chief at the time fell just a few cents below that threshold.). Ten top commission officials have received raises of $10,000 to $72,000 each over the past 13 months. Most of the increases, if not all, resulted from promotions, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Executive Commissioner Charles Smith has sought no raises for the more-than-33,000 rank-and-file workers in the commission. Most are caregivers at state-run centers for mentally disabled patients or take welfare benefits applications.

Thousands of lower-level commission workers "haven't had a real pay raise" for years, said Judy Lugo, president of the Texas State Employees Union, to which some of those rank-and-file workers belong. Many of those workers take second jobs to help make ends meet, but many have been required to work late recently to determine benefits for Texans left bereft by Hurricane Harvey, she said.

An agency spokeswoman attributed the increases to a tripling of the commission's size and scope in recent years.

"It's understandable that an organization of this size and scope would have top-level staff making competitive salaries," said spokeswoman Carrie Williams. She further said that comparing those salaries with those of a decade ago gives a distorted view.

And a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott said Smith has been effective in correcting an agency plagued by scandals and inefficiency in recent years. "Whenever there is a change in the status quo, there are bound to be individuals that are displeased," said Abbott spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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