- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Henry McMaster is paying his chief of staff $165,000, a salary that’s nearly $31,000 higher than his predecessor’s.

Trey Walker is likely the highest-paid chief of staff ever to a South Carolina governor, The State newspaper reports (https://bit.ly/2mkO8Jh ).

Former Gov. Nikki Haley’s last chief of staff, Swati Patel, made $134,225 a year. She was previously the governor’s office attorney.

Asked what warranted the pay bump, McMaster’s office noted Walker’s political and governmental experience.

Walker was director of the state Republican Party through much of McMaster’s tenure as GOP chairman. He was also McMaster’s top aide during his two terms as attorney general.

Walker’s salary was nearly $123,000 as Haley’s deputy chief of staff. He left nine months into her tenure to lobby for the University of South Carolina and then BlueCross BlueShield.

McMaster’s total staff payroll of just under $1 million is less than Haley’s when she entered office. In 2011, her 16-member staff was paid $1.1 million.

But her staff and their salaries grew. Haley’s first of five chiefs of staff - her political adviser Tim Pearson - made a $125,000 salary when she took office, which was $27,000 more than his predecessor under former Gov. Mark Sanford.

When Haley left office, she had 18 full-time employees. McMaster currently has 13 employees, but his staff will grow too.

“The governor believes he has assembled a team of dedicated professionals who will deliver results for the state and its people, and he plans to add more,” said McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes.

State law sets the governor’s salary at $106,000.

McMaster, elected lieutenant governor in 2014, ascended to the governor’s office last month when Haley resigned to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

McMaster told reporters last week lawmakers must cut some spending to focus on priority items such as fixing South Carolina’s crumbling roadways and shoring up the state pension system. He gave no examples of items to cut, saying, “We’re just going to have to make those tough decisions.”

“State government is going to have to go on a diet as far as spending,” he said. “You have your necessities, then you have your dessert, or what is extra. We’re not going to be able to have desserts for a while. We have to be very careful in how we spend the money.”

Other employees in McMaster’s office include Mark Plowden, who is paid nearly $126,000 as deputy chief of staff. His salary is unchanged from his previous job as McMaster’s chief of staff in the lieutenant governor’s office. He also worked for McMaster in the attorney general’s office.


Information from: The State, https://www.thestate.com

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