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updated: 6/24/2013 8:16 AM

8 percent of Ill. workers made over $100K in 2012

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Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- More than 6,200 Illinois state employees earned more than $100,000 in 2012, according to a published report.

GateHouse Media Illinois newspapers reported this weekend that 8 percent of the 76,000 employees surveyed made six-figure salaries. The group includes doctors, judges, nurses, police officers and more.

And it includes the state's CEO, Gov. Pat Quinn. But the Democrat's salary is $177,412, ranking him in only 687th place.

The analysis looked at all compensation, including overtime pay, unused sick and vacation time routinely cashed in upon retirement, and back-wage claims earned by each employee in 2012. The review included just agencies that have their payrolls processed by the Illinois state comptroller, excluding state university and community college workers.

The 6,215 workers topping $100,000 cost the state a total of $781 million, or 17 percent of the $4.5 billion payroll.

According to the analysis, the number of earners making more than $100,000 in 2012 grew by 1,131 from the previous year. Burgeoning overtime pay for workers at short-staffed agencies appears to be one reason.

GateHouse cited a 2008 study by the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative research organization, that found average state employee compensation, including benefits, was $69,500 -- 23 percent more than the private-sector average of $56,000.

"The number of people with high salaries dispels the old notion that to work in the public sector is a lot of sacrifice," Ted Dabrowski, vice president for the Illinois Policy Institute, told GateHouse. He said that high salaries and accompanying pensions precipitate the "need to think about reforming our overall compensation for government-sector workers."

But Ralph Martire, executive director of the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said studies concluding government work brings higher salaries are skewed because they don't adjust for higher qualifications and more education needed for public-sector work.

"There aren't a lot of jobs in the public sector that are the equivalent of someone working in retail or at a restaurant," Martire said.

The top salary in 2012 went to Robert Rupnik, chief investment officer for the Teachers' Retirement System, at $357,500. TRS executive director Richard Ingram made $239,170.

"The job that our investment officer and our executive director do are very specialized tasks," TRS spokesman David Urbanek said. "If they were out in the private sector, they would each be earning at least seven figures. They have been successful in what they do."

Sixteen of the top 20 salaries belong to physicians at state-run mental health hospitals for the Department of Human Services, with compensation ranging from $255,000 to $300,000.

"They do provide a vital service, and again, we do have to be competitive if we're going to keep skilled medical professionals," Human Services spokeswoman Januari Smith said.

Compensation examined was not just base salary, but total payments in the fiscal year. For example, the top earner at the Department of Transportation in 2012 was Nicholas Ndoca, a bridge mechanic who totaled $218,000. His base salary was $72,000, he received $1,800 in overtime and was paid $144,000 for a back-wage claim.

At the Illinois State Police, where GateHouse found that more than one-third of the payroll earned more than $100,000 in 2012, the list was topped by Lt. Robert Bodemer at $219,000. Much of his pay was from unused vacation and compensatory time that officers are paid upon retirement.

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