Fact Checker: Patty Judge and the pay gap

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Introduction

“During Iowa State Budget Fiscal Years 1999-2008, Patty Judge paid men, on average, 12.45 percent more per year than women, while serving as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Iowa Lt. Governor. When Judge led the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, women fared worse: Men earned, on average, 14.81 percent more than women.”

Source of claim: Priorities for Iowa, an issues advocacy group headed by Jimmy Centers, a former communications director for Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, made the claim on pattyspaygap.com.

Analysis

For this check, we’ll find and compare the average salaries for men and women who worked under Judge in these two state departments. Then we’ll try to see how involved Judge was in setting salaries in those departments at the time.

Priorities for Iowa took salary information — posted on the Department of Administrative Service’s state employee salary website — for the entire staff of the Governor’s Office and Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship during Judge’s time as lieutenant governor and as state agriculture secretary, respectively.

Centers said the group removed elected officials and employees terminated in the midst of a fiscal year from the data. The remaining salaries were averaged for men and women.

The group’s numbers pan out when Fact Checker follows that approach. Staff sizes vary in those two departments from about 30 in the Governor’s Office to more than 200 in the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

During her time as Secretary of Agriculture (1999-2006), men in that department averaged about $37,700 a year, which was 17.8 percent more than the $32,000 average salary for women.

Men in the Governor’s Office averaged more than $41,000, about 8 percent higher than the women’s average of less than $38,000 during Judge’s four years as lieutenant governor (2006-2010).

Is that unique to her?

Using the same approach, we looked at salaries during years when Judge was not an elected official in these two departments.

During fiscal year 1998 in the ag department — before Judge was elected — salaries for men averaged 25 percent more than for women. More recently, in fiscal year 2015, men in that department earned 15.7 percent more than women.

For the Governor’s Office in fiscal year 2015, 10 men averaged 54 percent more than what 11 women earned that year.

By expanding our search, we found that women were averaging lower salaries than men in both departments before and after Judge’s time there.

Annual salaries in the Governor’s Office in the years we checked often ranged from less than $7,000 to more than $100,000. Extremes like that can skew averages, so we’ll take a look at the median wage — or the middle of the range.

In FY 2010, Judge’s last year as lieutenant governor, the median wage for women was about $47,000 and about $40,500 for men.

One year earlier, the median wage for women was $40,000 while it was $45,000 for men. In FY 2007, the median salary was $23,000 for both.

So with a different approach to the numbers, we can see it’s common for the median salary for both sexes to fluctuate.

In response to Priorities for Iowa’s claim, Judge’s campaign said state salaries are negotiated and not set by elected officials.

So were employees “paid” by Judge, as the claim states?

Tami Wiencek, legislative liaison with the Department of Administrative Services, said a state employee’s wage depends on many factors, including job classification and the pay grade for that classification.

Another distinction is union vs. non-union.

Mazie Stilwell, communication specialist with AFSCME Iowa Council 61, which is made up of local unions representing state, county and municipal employees, said union employee salary rates are established by a collective bargaining agreement. That agreement ultimately is approved by the governor.

“The lieutenant governor or secretary of agriculture does not have any direct say over the outcome of that agreement,” Stilwell said.

Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director with the ag department, said 90 percent of the department’s 349 employees are under union contracts.

For the remaining 36, which typically includes supervisors or managers, Vande Hoef said the state’s hiring process was well established and fairly consistent among many departments.

Non-union positions have a minimum pay rate based on the job classification. If the department’s appointing authority recommends an employee receive a higher salary based on experience or education, the recommendation goes to the Department of Administrative Service for final approval, Vande Hoef said.

The Secretary of Agriculture selects the department’s appointing authority, but neither the secretary or that appointed official have final say on employee pay.

Conclusion

The numbers provided by Priorities for Iowa are accurate — women working under Judge averaged less than their male co-workers. However, the pay gap also was present before and after her time at the helm of those departments.

But the group’s claim that Judge “paid” women on her staffs less than men is misleading — those rates are set through union agreements or by the state’s department of administrative services.

With both those factors in mind, we rate this claim a C.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/office holder or a national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

• This Fact Checker was researched and written by Mitchell Schmidt.

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