State Payroll Rose to $18.2B Last Year, According to Empire Center’s New Data

The SeeThroughNY database — the largest single depository for information on New York state salaries and spending — published new 2022 payroll details for employees that worked for the state’s executive, legislative and judicial branches. The database is published by the Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank focused on making sure that New Yorkers can easily see where their money is being allocated on public employee salaries, budget spending and other taxpayer-supported policies. 

The new data published this week shows that of the $118.5 billion collected by the Department of Finance and Taxation for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year, state employee pay totaled $18.2 billion — a $400 million increase from the year prior. It is important to note that 3,107 employees were added to the payroll from 2021-2022.

It was also found that there were 903 Executive Branch employees that were paid more than Gov. Hochul’s statutory salary, which sits at $250,000 a year. 

The database of salaries does not include employee benefits such as health insurance, pension contributions and other fringe benefits, which can add up to an extra 40 percent to an employee’s total compensation. 

Among the other new findings: 84 of the top 100 highest paid employees were SUNY employees; 41 of these are employed at Downstate Medical Center. Forty-seven employees on the state payroll received more than $500,000 last year; 4,159 employees received more than $200,000; and 57,824 employees received more than  $100,000.

The average full-time employee salary — not including overtime or other additional pay — was $72,590, up from $71,482 in 2021.

“It adds a big piece of the cost that nobody sees,” says Ken Girardin, a fellow at the Empire Center. “At no point anywhere in state government records do we see the full freight cost of a public employee. It shouldn’t take an outside organization to make one of the state’s biggest outlays visible to the public. Other states post their payrolls on the internet, often bi weekly.”

In New York, the annual income tax ranges anywhere from 4 percent to 10.9 percent, depending on where one fits within the nine different tax brackets. There is also an average 8.52 percent sales tax within the state. 

“It’s important that state lawmakers and the general public scrutinize the payroll,” Giardin said. “Otherwise, we get incidents like the New York City subway system and other MTA sub agencies that have a serious problem with overtime. Our philosophy is that the more lawmakers, the more journalists and the more the public understands state policy, the better things will be.”

Through their efforts, the Empire Center has been able to expose the expense perversions for some state agencies to the public, forcing the government to take action. In 2017 alone, they alerted the public that taxpayer money was being used in part for the state Senate’s $2 million office furniture purchase and the eight MTA employees who pocketed over $200,000 each in overtime. 

The payroll database’s influence on state law is evident. On March 3, Gov. Hochul signed an amendment to the state’s pay transparency law (S.9427A/A.10477) which requires employers to disclose compensation or range of compensation to applicants and employees. This amendment expands the applicability of pay transparency to fully remote jobs, significantly increasing the law’s scope.