Across the U.S., states have frozen pay, reduced benefits and privatized jobs to take money and benefits away from state employees. But are we really overspending on state employees?
The Economic Policy Institute concluded that considering education, experience and several other factors, state employees are not overcompensated. In fact, state employees are undercompensated by an average of 7.6 percent, and employees with a four-year degree are undercompensated, on average, 25 percent less than private employees.
How do we expect to acquire and retain skilled employees when we pay 25 percent less than our competition in the private sector, and every year we fall further behind in pay and benefits? The state wants to reduce pensioner benefits further. All those years of underfunding the state pension has caught up with the legislature, but instead of them paying the price, it falls on the backs of regular working class state employees.
Jason Bailey, director at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, recently said, “the public pension system’s problems have been created primarily by poor legislative decisions. It’s unfair to put all of the burden of that problem on the backs of the workers.”
If we really want to fix the pension problem, our legislature needs to start participating in the standard state employee retirement system. I bet our unfunded liability would go away. And if we want qualified professionals working in state government, we are going to have to increase, not decrease, compensation. As my mother used to say, you get what you pay for.