The Mississippi Fat Cat report is a list of the fifty highest-paid public officials, which we publish every year. Our report reveals some shocking truths about public sector pay.
Did you know, for example, that the school superintendent of Tupelo (7,005 students) is paid more than the governor of Texas (population 28 million)? Or that the D-rated McComb school superintendent makes more than the governor of Florida?
Mississippi’s 50 highest-paid public officials make (I hesitate to use the word ‘earn’) more than the 50 governors of the US states.
Worse, the Fat Cats are getting fatter. Our report reveals that top public sector salaries in our state are rising faster than the salaries of the average Mississippi government employee, and a lot faster than the salaries of ordinary workers in the public sector.
From gas to groceries, the cost of living is rising fast. Since the salaries of many Mississippians are not increasing as quickly, many are likely to see a decline in their household income. I don’t imagine this is quite such a problem for those public officials who have been awarded above-inflation pay raises.
Of course, higher salaries for Fat Cats means fewer nurses, teachers and police. Our report calculates that the combined salaries of Mississippi’s 50 Fat Cats could pay for an additional 194 nurses, 232 state troopers or 228 teachers.
The aim of our report is not to criticize every highly paid public official. Some are paid to do demanding jobs requiring specialist medical and legal skills that generate a lot of public good. Top performing school district superintendents may be worth every dollar. But there seem to be an awful lot of highly-paid public officials that preside over some pretty awful public service outcomes.
Our report show that there is little correlation between what top bureaucrats are paid, and their performance. Many of the worst-performing school superintendents seem to enjoy inflated salaries.
Every time there is a public debate in Mississippi about how to improve public services, it rapidly becomes a conversation about how many more federal dollars we need to throw at the problem and how much more public money we should spend. Our report suggests that this is the wrong approach.
With a $1.4 billion surplus in the state budget, there is plenty of money to pay a lot of mediocre officials a lot. The problem seems to be that the money isn’t always spent in the best interests of the public.
Our report lists some practical steps that our lawmakers need to take in order to ensure that there is proper accountability when top public sector salaries are being set. Our lawmakers need to act in the 2023 session to ensure public money is spent more wisely.
Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. A copy of the Mississippi Fat Cat report 2022 can be downloaded from our website mspolicy.org/publications/the-2022-mississippi-fat-cat-report/.