By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog
Which New Jersey state official receives the highest salary?
If you guessed Gov. Chris Christie, you’re not even close.
NOT SO MUCH: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie really doesn’t earn that much in the grand scheme of things.
Christie’s $175,000-a-year salary ranked only 251st among state employees last year, according to a New Jersey Watchdog analysis of Treasury payroll data.
Topping the list at $261,323 was James Weinstein, who stepped down last month as executive director of New Jersey Transit Corp. Since his departure, the new leaders are chiefs Michele Brown of the Economic Development Authority and John Palmieri of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority with $225,000 salaries.
But wait! There’s more.
Robert Eilers, medical director of the Division of Mental Services, hits the chart at $216,924. He is trailed closely by 17 psychiatrists at state mental institutions, each of whom get $215,078 per annum.
In all, the 250 state employees with higher salaries than Christie include six Supreme Court justices, 37 appellate court judges, 12 authority executives, 194 physicians and the Treasury’s director of investments. (Click here for New Jersey Watchdog’s list.)
Before anyone starts feeling sorry for Christie, consider some of the perks that come with the governor’s job:
- Christie receives a $95,000 annual allowance for entertainment and other expenses — and he does not have to account for how the money is spent.
- He and his family have free reign of Drumthwacket, the governor’s stately residence in Princeton.
- They can also enjoy summers at the governor’s oceanfront mansion at Island Beach State Park.
- State Police personnel are assigned to provide transportation and around-the-clock security for the governor and his entourage.
- Nationally, the New Jersey governor’s salary ranks fifth — tied with Virginia and trailing only New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
This year, Christie added a new benefit to his package. If he faces scandal, the governor can handpick his own internal investigators to exonerate him — just like in Bridgegate last week. Taxpayers will get stuck with the bill, estimated at $1 million or more.