(Illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)

Pennsylvania paid about $6.2 billion to more than 111,000 employees in 2021, a very slight decrease from 2020. 

This includes every person who worked for the commonwealth for at least one day during 2021 and is far higher than the number of people who were employed on any particular day. A state report shows last year continued a decades-long contraction in the state workforce, falling from a peak of 118,000 executive branch employees in July 1975 to 85,000 in July 2000 and just under 78,000 in July of last year.

The median compensation for state employees in PublicSource’s analysis, including overtime and bonuses, was $52,278 in 2021, a 1% increase from 2020. This analysis does not include judicial branch employees.

Eighty percent of the executive branch employees were unionized, and 16% were minorities in 2021, according to the state’s annual report. 

By department

The single largest chunk of the state’s payroll in 2021 went to the Department of Corrections, which was the state’s only $1 billion agency. It encompassed 17% of all compensation, paid out to more than 16,000 employees.

Corrections had a payroll larger than that of the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community & Economic Development, Education, Environmental Protection, Health, Labor & Industry, Military & Veterans’ Affairs, State, Treasury and the Turnpike Commission combined.

The next largest were the Department of Human Services ($832 million, 13% of the state total) and the System of Higher Education ($807 million, 13% of the state total). 

Pennsylvania’s public employees are heavily unionized, with more than 80% membership as of July 2021. More than 28,000 belonged to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and more than 29,000 others were spread among 20 other unions. 

Biggest earners

The list of the Pennsylvania government’s top earners is largely unchanged from last year. James Grossman held the top spot ($490,352) as a senior investment advisor at the state’s school employee retirement fund. Second was Michael Brogna, who earned $486,058 as a physician in a state hospital in Montour County. Third was Daniel Greenstein, who earned $432,011 as the chancellor of the System of Higher Education.

The state employed 11 people who earned more than $400,000 in 2021, up from seven in 2020.

Of the top 25 earners, 12 are physicians or psychiatrists, four are investment officers and six are higher education officials.

Gov. Tom Wolf earned $196,117, a lower amount than 321 state employees took. Wolf has donated his salary to charity since he took office in 2015. 

In the Capitol

The state’s legislative branch paid $162 million to 3,133 employees in 2021, including $23.3 million paid to elected lawmakers themselves.

Like in 2020, the top-paid legislators were House Speaker Bryan Cutler ($144,447) and Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman ($140,265), both Republicans. Allegheny County Sen. Jay Costa, the Democratic leader in the upper chamber, was the highest-earning Democrat ($130,185). 

Two Allegheny County-based representatives who resigned in 2021 to lead Pittsburgh’s new city administration received big raises after leaving state government.

Former Rep. Ed Gainey, now the mayor of Pittsburgh, earned $89,853 as a state representative last year and now earns $124,658 as mayor — a 39% increase. Former Rep. Jake Wheatley, who serves as Gainey’s chief of staff, had a nearly identical change in compensation.

The state Capitol’s highest earners, though, were not elected. Claude Hafner, the chief counsel to the Senate Democrats, led the way with $220,848 earned in 2021, followed closely by the Senate Democrats’ chief of staff, Anthony Lepore. In total, 63 Capitol staffers earned more than Cutler, the top-paid lawmaker. 

Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at charlie@publicsource.org and on Twitter @chwolfson.

This story was fact-checked by Oliver Morrisson.

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Charlie Wolfson is an enterprise reporter for PublicSource, focusing on local government accountability in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He is also a Report for America corps member. Charlie aims to...