RELEASE: MaineOpenGov.org Updates Show Explosive Growth in Maine Turnpike Authority Payroll

The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) held a press conference in Augusta today to update its MaineOpenGov.org online transparency Web site with payroll data from the Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) from 1998 through 2010, and to share findings from its own analysis of the new data.

An analysis of the payroll data reveals an explosive growth in MTA’s total payroll costs (base pay, benefits and overtime) between 1998 and 2010.  In 1998, MTA payroll costs totaled $16,764,928.  In 2010, MTA’s total payroll costs grew dramatically to $28,770,835—an increase of 72 percent in just 12 years.  By comparison, private sector salaries and benefits during that same time span grew by only 46 percent.

At the individual employee level, the number of highly paid MTA employees skyrocketed as well.

In 1998, just two MTA employees received more than $80,000 in total compensation.  By 2010, 75 took home compensation at or above $80,000.  The number of highly paid toll collectors has spiked as well, with only one toll collector receiving more than $60,000 in total compensation in 1998, compared to 85 in 2010.

And while MTA has reduced the number of toll collectors since 1998, from 315 to 288, total toll collector payroll has grown more than 70 percent—from $7,752,760 in 1998 to $11,067,587 in 2010.

“Only using MTA math could you have 27 fewer toll collectors, but still have a multi-million dollar increase in total toll collector pay,” said Sam Adolphsen, Director of the Center for Open Government at The Maine Heritage Policy Center.

The new data also reveals that the very highest MTA earners received staggering raises over the twelve year span.  MTA executives received pay increases totaling as much as 123 percent since 1998, even though they did not advance to a new position.  Some executives received pay increases more than three times what the average private sector worker received.  Seven MTA executives even earned more than the Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Transportation.

“It is almost inconceivable to think that our toll dollars are funding such massive increases in pay, while Maine citizens continue to draw attention to the very real need to fund repairs to make our roads safer,” Adolphsen said.  “It would appear fiscal management at the MTA is severely lacking.”

MHPC released the MTA data as members of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee prepare for a public hearing on Feb. 11 to discuss an Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) report which found questionable expenses made between 2005 and 2009.

Findings within the OPEGA report relating to MTA’s toll-funded expenditures include:

  • $157,000 in gift card purchases
  • $27,000 donated to Maine Preservation Foundation
  • $10,000 donated to the Maine Center for Economic Policy
  • $6,100 donated to Women Unlimited

“As legislators investigate the fiscal practices of the Maine Turnpike Authority, it’s critical they have a more complete picture of how MTA spends our toll dollars,” said Tarren Bragdon, Chief Executive Officer of The Maine Heritage Policy Center.  “This data raises a series of questions about how MTA uses our toll dollars to compensate its employees, and why that total compensation is completely out-of-balance with the private sector.  I urge legislators and the public to be vigilant in their questioning of MTA, and to refer to MaineOpenGov.org to fill in the holes about MTA’s spending.”

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