Tag Archives: Rebecca Ramos

The Campbell Assessment, updated

My previous post concerned apparent featherbedding by Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Traditionally, the Speaker and Pro Tem each get one full-time aide, at a salary in the $55,000 range. The Speaker is still there, but Campbell now has two full-time staffers drawing a combined salary of $111,000.

Since Campbell started padding his staff following his disastrous performance in the 2011-12 biennium, I called the difference “the price tag for John Campbell’s incompetence.” We could shorten that to The Campbell Assessment if you like.

In response, commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out that a state worker gets more than a salary; there are also public-sector-quality benefits. Since Campbell has added a second staffer, his payroll now includes full-time bennies for both.

What does that cost? The answer, from the state HR Department website:

The State’s total compensation package for employees features an outstanding set of employee benefits that are worth about 30% of your salary.

Okay, so add 30% to the cost of Campbell’s staff. That brings us to $144,000, more or less. It might end up being more than that; Campbell’s previous aide, Rebecca Ramos, piled up $23,000 in overtime and comp time in her last year on the job. But let’s stick with $144,000.

House Speaker Shap Smith’s aide earns $55,000. Add 30% for bennies ($16,500), and you get $71,500. So the baseline Campbell Assessment is $72,500.

But hey, he’s a great guy. You just can’t put a price tag on that. Can you?

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We can now put a price tag on John Campbell’s incompetence

…thanks to Terri Hallenbeck, pinch-hitting for Paul Heintz in the Freyne Memorial Chair:

In the last two years, [Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has] quietly increased his office’s staffing and more than doubled his payroll.

He’s done so — without any explicit policy change, nor anyone else’s approval — even as lawmakers consider cutting other state jobs to close yet another budget gap. Some say the situation reveals a disturbing lack of oversight. Others consider the money well spent, given that his enhanced staff has helped restore order under the oft-distracted and perpetually disorganized Campbell.

Aww, that’s nice. We’re spending a bunch of extra money because John Campbell can’t keep his shit together. And yet the Democratic caucus keeps re-electing him out of classic Vermonty loyalty to “my grandfather’s lightbulb.” 

Now, the amount of money isn’t that much in state budget terms — somewhere in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. The Pro Tem staff historically consists of one person paid roughly $50K per year. When Campbell hired Rebecca Ramos to pull his fat out of the fire after a disastrous 2012 Senate session, her starting salary was $70K. But in her last year on the job, she took home $103,000 thanks to a whole lot of overtime and unused comp time.

Campbell has replaced her — with not one, but two staffers, with total compensation of $111,000. By comparison, Hallenbeck reports that House Speaker Shap Smith’s sole staffer makes $55,000, and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s staffing cost is roughly the same.

I think we’re safe in concluding that the taxpayers of Vermont are shelling out an extra $60,000 or so to keep John Campbell in a job he can’t handle.

But he’s such a nice guy!

Postscript. As commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out, my $60,000 estimate is almost certainly low. Now that Campbell has hired two staffers, they’re presumably drawing the state benefits package — health care, pension, etc. So the real price of Campbell’s incompetence is more than 60K. 

“Well, yes, but we’re the GOOD guys”

Does this make anybody else feel just a bit queasy?

Rebecca Ramos, the former chief of staff for the state senate, has been hired by the Necrason Group lobbying firm.

… Ramos downplayed the revolving door perception that could be attached to her switch from one of the most important positions in the Statehouse — assistant to John Campbell, the president pro tempore of the state Senate — to a role in which she will be directly influencing the lawmakers she formerly worked for.

By all accounts, Ramos did yeoman’s work as Campbell’s right hand, leading to a reasonably organized and effective session in the Senate after the disaster of 2012. And the Necrason Group — formerly Sirotkin & Necrason — is a so-called “white hat” lobbying firm that spends a lot of its time working for labor unions and other liberal causes.

But gee, this is awfully chummy. Her new employer changed its name after former principal Michael Sirotkin, who went the other way through the revolving door: he was appointed to the Senate to fill the vacancy created by the death of his wife Sally Fox. Indeed, in an indirect way, Sirotkin’s departure opened the door for Ramos’ hire.

Ramos denies her past Senate experience will be an unfair advantage:

“No one expects someone is going to do me a favor,” Ramos said. “Legislators make decisions based on what they think is right.”

And she’s probably right, although I have to think she’ll have an easier time getting calls returned than someone who didn’t work closely with Senate leadership (and who didn’t save John Campbell’s bacon in the process, as Ramos apparently did).

Even if there’s no corruption here, the optics are horrible. It’s the kind of thing that makes people believe the Great Government Game is rigged. And gives ammunition to the Republicans.

And makes me want to take a shower.