Groh: Dataviz Final

The salary for public officials is often at the center of debate. Citizens complain that state employees are paid too high.  State employees say they aren’t compensated enough. Often the conversation ends up revolving around taxes. If state officials want higher salaries they need to find it somewhere in the budget or raise taxes. Regular citizens are normally pretty open to reducing their own taxes, but that reflects negatively in another persons’ check.


To begin to understand how much and why certain state officials are paid their given salary, a state’s tax revenue and overall budget need to be analyzed.

As shown by the table, California and New York have by far the biggest budgets and tax revenues. This is directly proportional, for the most part, with the average salary of each state’s public employees. So the larger the tax revenue and budget the higher the salary.


A state’s budget and revenue are fairly indicative of an employee’s potential salary. However, there are few exceptions as seen in the graph. Also, these numbers do not differentiate between part-time and full-time employees, which would denote a salary difference.

When the numbers are broken down by job type, there is a shocking result. The highest paid state employees in the United States are division I basketball and football coaches.

American sports are a huge profit generator. Nowhere else in the world are college sports taken so seriously, either.

The head coach of the University of Alabama football team, Nick Saban, makes $7 million a year. Since 2009, the Crimson Tide have won four national championships, were runners-up twice, produced 2 Heisman trophy winners, and haven’t lost more than 2 games in one season.

However, there is a caveat with this number that applies to all the other coaches. These schools and athletic departments make the majority of there money from other avenues other than taxes. Large T.V. commercial deals, sponsorships, rights to broadcast a game, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and concessions all contribute to Nick Saban’s salary. What amplifies the situation is that the better the team does, the more money the school gets for high profile playoff games, increased merchandise sales, and inflated ticket prices. So to say that these coaches are state employees may be a stretch. However, they are still employed by a public university which is apart of the state. Therefore, coaches are still considered state employees/

What has some people complaining, is the compensation the coaches get for the level of importance of their job. Employees who work in the state capital are crucial to the functioning of the state but don’t see the same level of compensation. This simply boils down to the industry. Some industries are more lucrative than others just as reporters are not paid as much as bankers.

What’s most interesting is that no state governors make the list of being the state’s highest paid employee. The majority of the people who are the highest paid employees are doctors, coaches, and university administrative personnel. Governors make around $100,000 a year.

The role of the governor may be more important in the management and functioning of the state, but that nature of the job doesn’t illicit a high wage. Even the highest office in the U.S only gets paid $400,000. To put this in perspective, Donald Trump would only be the highest paid public employee in three states: Maine, New Hampshire, and Montana.