Think tank charges Maine Turnpike Authority with excessive spending

Posted Feb. 09, 2011, at 1:37 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 09, 2011, at 8:05 p.m.

PORTLAND — The Maine Turnpike Authority’s payroll grew 72 percent over the past 12 years, and 75 employees took home wages and benefits worth more than $80,000 last year, the Maine Heritage Policy Center said Wednesday.

Total payroll for the agency’s 470 employees grew from $16.8 million in 1998 to $28.8 million in 2010, the conservative think tank said. During that period, private sector wages and benefits grew by 46 percent.

“It is almost inconceivable to think that our toll dollars are funding such massive increases in pay,” said Sam Adolphsen, director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Center for Open Government.

Turnpike spokesman Scott Tompkins said the figures were misleading, because they include retirement and health care benefits. Only 10 employees made $80,000 or more in wages in 2010, he noted, even though the turnpike authority has been adding workers with higher wages and technical expertise because of new technology such as transponders, cameras and weather stations.

“They mischaracterized some of the information they presented,” Tompkins said.

The Maine Turnpike Authority maintains and oversees the 106-mile Maine Turnpike from York to Gardiner, and Tompkins said the general consensus is that it’s a well-run toll road. All pay increases are reviewed and approved by a board of directors and the Maine Legislature, he added.

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