- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2012

Despite a pay freeze imposed by President Obama two years ago, payroll at the White House rose about 2 percent in the past year and there are 14 more employees than a year ago, according to an administration report to Congress.

The White House payroll grew from $37.1 million in 2011 to $37.8 million in 2012, and the number of employees grew from 454 to 468.

A White House spokesman said “the reason it appears that we have more employees” is because more vacant positions are being filled now than at the same time last year.

He said the vacancy rate was about 13 percent last July 1, compared with 9 percent now, although there is no hard-and-fast rule for determining the maximum number of employees who can work at the White House.

The spokesman, who provided the information on background, said total salaries have declined from $39.1 million in 2009, and that the total number of employees has dropped from 487 three years ago.

In 2008, during President George W. Bush’s final year in office, the White House payroll was $33.1 million [-] 14 percent less than it is today.

In November 2010, Mr. Obama announced a pay freeze for federal workers, including those at the White House. The spokesman said the freeze is “still very much in effect,” and that the White House has not granted pay raises unless employees receive “increases in responsibilities or changes in position.”

In spite of the pay freeze, many federal workers qualify for salary hikes for longevity, known as a step increase, and also through promotions. There are fewer than 50 White House employees who fall into those categories.

The Obama White House has 139 employees who earn $100,000 or more. The top salary, $172,200, is paid to 19 of the president’s senior aides: Chief of Staff Jack Lew; senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe; press secretary Jay Carney; Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer; National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon; John Brennan, assistant to the president on homeland security and counter-terrorism; Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Childress; Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle; head speechwriter Jonathan Favreau; Deputy National Security Director Michael Froman; Cabinet Secretary Christopher Lu; Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco; Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough; Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Munoz; Director of Legislative Affairs Robert Nabors; Peter Rouse, counselor to the president; White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

Christina Tchen, chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, also is paid $172,200. There are 12 employees on the first lady’s staff.

An act of Congress sets the president’s salary at $400,000 per year; it went into effect in January 2001. The lowest-paid White House employees receive a salary of $42,000.

On this year’s report to Congress, there were 68 special assistants to the president, 22 assistants to the president and 24 deputy assistants.

Mr. Obama has a chief calligrapher, who is paid $96,725, and an ethics adviser who earns $136,134.

Members of Congress receive an annual salary of $174,000. The vice president’s salary is $230,700.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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