PRI Study: California public-sector compensation soaring

Analysis

Dec. 7, 2012

By John Seiler

A new study by the Pacific Research Institute shows that compensation for the public sector in California is soaring far above that of the private sector. PRI is CalWatchDog.com’s parent think tank.

For California state and local governments, “a key driver of the budget crises is overly generous government compensation packages,” the study found. “Consequently, California’s budget crises will never be sustainably resolved without addressing the problem of overly generous state and local government compensation.”

“Policy Reforms to Control Rising Government Compensation Costs” is written by Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., a PRI senior fellow and a lecturer in economics at Marymount University.

Winegarden’s key findings:

1. “California’s government compensation costs are already excessive.” He cited a 2011 study by Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs, which found:

“In the case of California public employees, wages are slightly lower in the public sector. Initially, benefits appear only slightly higher, implying rough parity in compensation between the public and private sectors. However, properly accounting for retiree health benefits and defined benefit pension plans generates a public compensation premium of around 15 percent. The additional job security granted to public-sector employees is equivalent to an approximately 15 percent increase in public compensation, meaning that the total public-sector pay premium in California may be as high as 30 percent.”

I would add that Richwine and Biggs just came out with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal which found that government workers (teachers were not included) put in about a month less time on the job every year than do private-sector workers. They wrote:

“Based on the most detailed and objective data set available, the private sector really does work more than the public sector. This fact may hold different lessons for different people, but our own take is simple: Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector.”

In sum, government workers get paid 30 percent more than private sector-workers, but work 8 percent (one month) less. Nice part-time work for full-time pay if you can get it.

However, I’m also mindful of the old libertarian maxim, “We’re lucky we don’t get all the government we pay for.” I would be happy if every regulator in the state, even while getting paid their hefty salaries and benefits, stayed home and played video games.

Widening pay gap

Back to the PRI study by Winegarden. He also found, “California’s government compensation premium over California’s private sector is widening.” That means:

“The benefit premium of state and local government workers is not a new phenomenon …. over the past 40-plus years California’s government compensation premium relative to California’s private sector compensation levels has been growing and is currently near historic highs.”

Even as the private sector that pays for everything through record-high taxes shrinks, the government sector that lives off it keeps growing.

Compensation higher than other states

Winegarden also found, “California’s government compensation premium relative to other states cannot be justified based on California’s relatively higher incomes and cost of living.”

Certainly, California’s cost of living is higher than in other states — in part because of the high cost of taxation and the regulations imposed by all those highly compensated functionaries.

But Winegarden wrote:

“State and local government workers in California receive a compensation premium over state and local government workers in Texas and the U.S. that is consistently greater than the compensation premium received by California’s private sector workers compared to private sector workers in Texas and the U.S.”

That makes sense. If you’re in the private sector, you’re competing against not only other Americans, but all 7 billion people on the globe. If costs go up, then worker pay has to go down — or the company moves to another state or country, or goes broke.

By contrast, when government costs go up, taxes are raised — as we just saw with the passage of Proposition 30 and Proposition 39, as well as scores of local taxes and bonds.

There is some check on government because departing businesses and workers then don’t pay taxes in the place from which they were exiled. But that check usually takes a few years to dig in. And governments also commonly meet funding crises by cutting services, such as parks and roads, rather than reducing generous employee pay, perks, pleasures and pensions.

Excessive and growing

Winegarden concluded, “[T]he evidence regarding California’s state and local government compensation costs are clear: when all benefits are included, these costs are excessive and growing.”

The reasons:

“California implements policies that encourage excessive compensation. These policies include mandating collective bargaining, empowering public sector unions, and, in some areas, mandating binding arbitrations. These policies have led to practices such as excessive pension spiking, low retirement ages, covering health care services during retirement, generous pension levels, and permitting the practice of receiving both a government pension and a government salary. When coupled with the declining asset values of California’s pension system, these trends have created a crisis waiting to happen.”

So, that’s how it is as we rush toward 2013. The private sector shrivels under the immense burden of government, even as the government functionaries work less and are paid more — and as taxes are jacked up to record levels to pay for everything.

Until the system falls down and all Jerry Brown’s horses and all the unions’ men couldn’t put it together again.

45 comments

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  1. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 07:26

    Pacific Research Inst.===== LOL====same old deal….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment
  2. Pure Garbage
    Pure Garbage 7 December, 2012, 07:36

    The claim that California state workers’ compensation is rising is total garbage. I work for the State and have not had a pay increase since July 1, 2006, or 6.5 years ago. During that time, I’ve had to endure two “temporary” pay decreases of 5%. The claim that my compensation has increased is complete hogwash.

    There are thousands of conservatives among state workers. We see money and resources being wasted and misspent everyday, not to mention the rising tide of hard left programs and indoctrination. Our jobs are hard enough without other conservatives spreading garbage about rising compensation.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 07:56

    A new study by the Pacific Research Institute shows that compensation for the public sector in California is soaring far above that of the private sector. PRI is CalWatchDog.com’s parent think tank.
    ==
    Already a well known fact. Average comp of a city employee in San Jose is a whopping $175K per year, that is about 600% above the states average comp.

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 07:56

    Even a dump like Santa Ana has $150K in average comp.

    Reply this comment
  5. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 7 December, 2012, 08:22

    Pure Garbage: The point is that public-sector compensation is way ABOVE private-sector compensation. Your compensation may have gone down, but not as fast as the equivalent has in the private-sector.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  6. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 7 December, 2012, 08:23

    Ted Steele: Please read the study and refute the numbers. Ad hominem attacks don’t work.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  7. BobA
    BobA 7 December, 2012, 08:51

    Pure Garbage:

    I can empathize with you because I have relatives who are also state workers who say the same things but to be fair & honest, the problem is the same as it has always been: the top dogs, their lieutenants and other bureaucratic favorites get the big pay raises and benefit increase. Just take a look at the various school systems and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

    Teachers make a mere pittance compared to the top administrators salaries and benefits and the gap is getting wider. The same applies to every other government or quasi-government organization.

    Don’t you think it’s about time that state government employees start protesting the outrageous salaries of their top people instead of asking the tax payers for more of what they have less of?

    Reply this comment
  8. surfpunk
    surfpunk 7 December, 2012, 09:16

    Garbage,you see waste ect.speak out don”t just watch the state fall apart. There are many folks aware how bad waste and fraud exist,you can point out to the public what needs to change.If you just sit back and let it happen you are part of the problem.

    Reply this comment
  9. BobA
    BobA 7 December, 2012, 09:32

    surfpunk:

    People like that never speak up because they benefit directly or indirectly from the waste, fraud and abuse and then they complain about how it will hurt them whenever there’s a serious attempt to put a stop to it.

    Waste, fraud and abuse is a way of life for a lot of people and they could not survive the harsh realities of life without it. The realities that the rest of us who don’t make a living of the government deal with everyday of our lives.

    Reply this comment
  10. doug
    doug 7 December, 2012, 09:51

    sounds like puregarbage has seen the self-perpetuating machine of state government.
    maybe he has a guaranteed retirement program?

    Reply this comment
  11. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 15:01

    Ted Steele: Please read the study and refute the numbers. Ad hominem attacks don’t work.

    – John Seiler
    Thank you. Lets hope he gets it.

    Reply this comment
  12. BobA
    BobA 7 December, 2012, 15:31

    Rex:

    Odds are he won’t. That would require a level of literacy that is beyond his limited abilities. Asking Ted to read the study would be like asking a five year old for their opinion on today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page comments.

    Reply this comment
  13. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 7 December, 2012, 15:47

    Teddy has a fine level of literacy.

    He just chooses to use it the way many of us – myself included – did as 11-year olds on the school playground.

    Reply this comment
  14. RT
    RT 7 December, 2012, 16:54

    Yes, there are cases where individuals are making “excessive amounts” at the time of retirement. However, for most rank and file staff the picture is very different. Not all of them will be “retired fat-cats”. In fact, the vast majority of those people will need to take a part time job once they retire in order to make ends meet. I just wish that a flawed system that rewards the few could be fixed so that rank and file staff can retire after 25-30 years without having to work part-time.

    Reply this comment
  15. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 17:04

    John– I read the article but long ago stopped looking at ANYthing PRI does. From whacky enviro projects/reports to this. They have proven to be push poll advocacy oriented dullards. Sorry man.

    Reply this comment
  16. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 17:05

    I live in BobA and Poodle’s tiny skulls….don’t I?

    Reply this comment
  17. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 18:19

    I live in BobA and Poodle’s tiny skulls….don’t I?
    ==
    Ted Steele: …. Ad hominem attacks don’t work.

    Teddy, will you stop acting like a 10 y/o with the usual drivel you post.

    Reply this comment
  18. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 18:26

    RT:
    Yes, there are cases where individuals are making “excessive amounts” at the time of retirement. However, for most rank and file staff the picture is very different. Not all of them will be “retired fat-cats”. In fact, the vast majority of those people will need to take a part time job once they retire in order to make ends meet.

    RT if you’re speaking of public employees you are flat out wrong, and are either straight up lying or ignorant of the facts.

    The AVERAGE Contra Costa County gov employee with 30 or more years in (part time career) and has retired after 2010 gets an $86K pension- that is the average. For Alameda County it is $85K, and for CalTURDS it is $68K.

    NO ONE “needs” to take a part time when their pensions is 100%-200% ABOVE the AVERAGE CA private sector employee who actually works.

    So your claim that rank and file are getting peanuts, and only fat cats are doing great, is totally bogus.

    Reply this comment
  19. BobA
    BobA 7 December, 2012, 18:44

    jimmydeeoc:

    Assumption and hearsay is not admissible in the court of public opinion. What proof can you offer that Ted is literate?

    Reply this comment
  20. Donkey
    Donkey 7 December, 2012, 18:47

    @Rex-#18, Well said Puppy!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  21. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 19:13

    Boba– you’re hurting my feelings little buddy!

    Reply this comment
  22. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 7 December, 2012, 19:44

    Ted Steele wrote: “John– I read the article but long ago stopped looking at ANYthing PRI does. From whacky enviro projects/reports to this. They have proven to be push poll advocacy oriented dullards. Sorry man.”

    “ANYthing PRI does”? Well, CalWatchDog.com is part of PRI, but you read us.

    And: “push poll advocacy oriented dullards. Sorry man.” Sorry, Ted, but the PRI study I reviewed was based on government data. Again: refute the data if you will, but ad hominem attacks are bad arguments. Ad hominem attacks automatically concede the arguments.

    Finally, we all know people in government. And we know people in the private sector. Who makes more for equivalent jobs? Government people, obviously. In Orange County, firefighters average $175,000 a year and cops $125,000.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  23. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 20:25

    John– I had no idea you were PRI– Now I understand your sensitivity. Well, I guess at least you acknowledge your obvious appearance of bias.Your ff avg numbers are off. And, just how do you compare them to private sector ff’s? Hmmmm.
    Pvt cops vs. rental cops– ok— I guess you can make some comparison there.I guess.

    I watched PRI stuff over the years. I particularly enjoyed there enviro forays re artificial refs, very right predictable. Look who is on the BOD!!! If I was out here positing a study from MSNBC or the Ed Show I expect you’d have an opinion re the bias.

    Finally, yes we all know people in Gov. For example– I think Superior Court judges make about 170k plus benees. I know one of those guys, seems like a bargain for the taxpayer to me. I know a few cops and some clerical folks here and there. Seems to me that they make a wage consistent with their responsibilities and about eq. to or less than the private sector type.

    But you know what? The beauty is this—In our system of gov. all you need to do to lower the help’s salaries is to become an elected, have ethics, resist the very frightening and all powerful Marxist/Thug siren call of the unions and lower the salary next time the contract comes due. So– do it— stop whining about it (I mean that of course figuratively and will all due respect). You guys are a broken recorddddddddddd….

    Have fun!

    Reply this comment
  24. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 20:25

    sic– “reefs”

    Reply this comment
  25. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 7 December, 2012, 20:28

    Have a look at this John– add benefits!

    http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Firefighter-l-Los-Angeles,-CA.html

    Reply this comment
  26. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 21:35

    Your ff avg numbers are off. And, just how do you compare them to private sector ff’s….Pvt cops vs. rental cops– ok— I guess you can make some comparison there.I guess.

    FF and GED cop are BOTH entry level jobs that require NO specialized training to be hired on, much less a college degree, and light years from a graduate degree.

    They both offer PAID academy and on the job training. The jobs are unskilled-semi skilled blue collar jobs that require NO MORE training or intelligence than the average construction tradesman, who make far less and face a far higher death and injury rate.

    There are usually 500 or more applicants for every 1 cop job and 5,000 or more for every one ff job.

    Your claim that either cop or ff cannot be compared to the private sector is pure baloney. In fact construction trade jobs are far more physical AND dangerous than any FF or cop job anywhere in America.

    Reply this comment
  27. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 December, 2012, 21:40

    Have a look at this John– add benefits!

    http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Firefighter-l-Los-Angeles,-CA.html

    Awesome source teddy!…Oh…wait…there IS NO SOURCE, just a stoopid graph with no data to back it up.

    Here you go Teddy Steals, let me help you out with DATA driven FF (and cop) pay-we wont even include the benefits which double the cash salary!!!!

    From TODAY Teddy- not some decades old, outdated hearsay you copy and pasted off the web;

    “While their ranks have thinned due to layoffs and the recession, California police offices and firefighters still typically earn far more than most Californians”

    “California police officers made, on average, $92,976, including overtime, incentive pay and payouts upon retirement during 2010, according to a Bee analysis of data from the state controller’s office. Firefighters and engineers earned, on average, $113,882. Average pay for police captains across the state was $147,940; for fire captains, it was $141,525.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/03/3446569/see-average-police-firefighter.html

    Reply this comment
  28. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 05:07

    Looks like the janitor nailed this one, right out of the gate.
    This looks like the same report Mike Genest did for CFFR. he also determined that government workers “may be overpaid” by as much as 30% .

    Of course, when he was asked about his own state salary as Arnold’s financial officer(and $125,000 a year retirement), he said ” we could have made more in the private sector.”

    All these “studies” (Heritage Foundation, too) concede that in actual tax dollars spent for TOTAL compensation, government workers earn less.

    Then they add a 15% “premium” for job security. While government workers have been LOSING jobs. (They used algorithms)

    Then, in articles like this one, it’s like stepping on a fish to make it legal length:

    “the total public-sector pay premium in California MAY BE as high as 30 percent.”…becomes:
    ” government workers get paid 30 percent more than private sector-workers”

    That little “may be” that got dropped was an important part of the “study”. It is their plausible deniability, also known as Cover Your Accounting.

    Reply this comment
  29. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 07:23

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I was searching for something else and happened to find this. Apparently, according to Millard Mitt Romney, most government workers don’t even nearly make as much as “middle class”.

    http://gawker.com/5943330/romney-believes-middle+income-americans-make-200000-to-250000-a-year

    Reply this comment
  30. BobA
    BobA 8 December, 2012, 08:31

    Ted:

    Get over yourself. You’re not that bright and it shows.

    Reply this comment
  31. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2012, 10:25

    “Romney’s camp later clarified that its candidate meant to say middle income for households is $200,000 to $250,000, which would align his beliefs with Barack Obama, who has in the past defined middle class as being families who make up to $250,000 annually
    ==
    Your AVERAGE CA firewhiner comps MORE than the avergae CA FAMILY, accoridng to Romney-who is a tool.

    Reply this comment
  32. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2012, 10:26

    Ted:

    Get over yourself. You’re not that bright and it shows.
    ==
    teddy, bring back the gimmick accounts, your Teddy Steals persona has been destroyed 😉

    Reply this comment
  33. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 10:44

    Slight semantic difference:

    Middle “class” is somewhat open to interpretation.

    Middle “income”, to which Millard referred, is well defined by the US Census Bureau as $50,000 per household.

    Reply this comment
  34. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 8 December, 2012, 10:55

    Ted Steele: Well, in the first paragraph, I wrote, “PRI is CalWatchDog.com’s parent think tank.” We mention that every time we bring up PRI, and are proud to do so.

    As to “bias,” we never have hidden that we look at things from a free-market, libertarian perspective. That’s unlike the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc., which pretend to be “unbiased” even as they advance a liberal agenda in their stories, and especially in what they choose to cover, and not cover.

    And if you don’t believe PRI/CalWatchDog.com on government compensation, here’s a 2012 Congressional Budget Office study showing federal workers get twice the compensation of equivalent private-sector workers: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/01-30-FedPay.pdf

    The CBO is part of Congress; so the CBO currently is run by the Democrat-dominated Senate and the Republican-dominated House.

    As to state and local workers’ equivalents, how about this. Currently, as I mentioned, firefighters in Orange County get $175,000 a year. So switch to volunteer fire departments. And switch to private ambulance companies, as we used to have (before the government unions banned most private ambulances by over-regulation to give the firefighters a monopoly).

    As to your link to the salaries of LA Firefighters, the data did NOT include overtime and salary. For the link you provided, I clicked on the internal link to the source of the data, which went to this site: http://www.5starjoblink.com/display_job/43785/?utm_source=Indeed&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Indeed

    Here’s the full listing:

    “FIREFIGHTERS

    “Salary Range $ 53,766 – $74,416 per year

    “A City of Los Angeles Firefighter has many rewards, financially and personally. The City of Los Angeles offers an exceptional compensation package. This includes the following:

    “Excellent benefits: Family and domestic partner health and dental coverage. Recruits would receive full dental, health, vision, and pension plan.

    “Excellent starting salary: $53,766 to $74,416 for entry-level firefighter position. Recruits would receive full pay during Academy training.”

    Finally, here’s a story from Fire Department Network News: http://www.fdnntv.com/news.asp_Q_articleID_E_7589_A_title_E_Los_Angeles_Fire_Department_Overtime_Pay_Causing_Controversy

    “Over the last decade, overtime pay for the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) rose 60 percent while the ranks of firefighters grew 17 percent, according to an investigation published by the Los Angeles Daily News. In 2008, LAFD paid $139 million in overtime compared to $86 million in 1999. Last year, the average firefighter earned about $36,500 in overtime compared with $29,000 in 1999, according to the article.

    “Firefighters in Los Angeles average six times more overtime than firefighters in Chicago and twice as much as firefighters in San Diego, a city with a similar firefighter- to-resident ratio, the newspaper said.”

    –- John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  35. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 11:24

    There you go, Ted. Those firemen make almost as much as a journeyman plumber.

    I bet you feel silly now.

    Reply this comment
  36. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 11:39

    Just out of curiosity, if a GED is minimum requirement for a fireman or law officer, and there are 500 to 5,000 applicants for every position, I wonder how many actually get hired with just a GED?

    Reply this comment
  37. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2012, 13:15

    Just out of curiosity, if a GED is minimum requirement for a fireman or law officer, and there are 500 to 5,000 applicants for every position, I wonder how many actually get hired with just a GED?
    ==
    Since they do not hire on merit, most, as in 80% in large metro areas, just ask Mark Fuhrman.

    Reply this comment
  38. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2012, 13:21

    There you go, Ted. Those firemen make almost as much as a journeyman plumber.
    =====
    Journeymen plumbers make around $30 an hour in salary and maybe another $5 an hour in benefits IF they are on a prevailing wage job.

    Prevailing wage jobs account for only 25% of construction jobs WHEN there is construction since construction work is seasonal, and sometimes they can be out of work for 1, 2 3 years or more, like today.

    There is not comparison between a plumber and firewhiner. When was the last time you saw 5K people line up for a single plumbers job???

    Reply this comment
  39. BobA
    BobA 8 December, 2012, 14:54

    For what it’s worth:

    I’ve worked in the private sector all of my life so I don’t know that much about what the average government employee makes other than what I hear and from what I here, many are over-paid for what they do.

    But if it wasn’t my hard earned tax dollars paying their salaries, I wouldn’t begrudge them for what they make. After all, in the private sector the saying goes that you’re worth what ever your employer will pay you.

    Since the government has the power to tax, that saying should never apply to the public sector because the sky will be no limit on how high public sector employee salaries will grow.

    Reply this comment
  40. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 8 December, 2012, 16:28

    LOL— Well…THAT was fun!

    Oh….and John……I’ll try not to cite any MSNBC studies!

    0 for 14 ™!

    Reply this comment
  41. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2012, 17:16

    But if it wasn’t my hard earned tax dollars paying their salaries, I wouldn’t begrudge them for what they make.
    In the OPEN AND FREE MARKET I would feel the exact same way, but gov employment is not open and not in a free market, there are NO market forces setting wages/compensation in gov

    After all, in the private sector the saying goes that you’re worth what ever your employer will pay you.

    In an open and free market this is true, as above, not true in gov emloyment.

    Reply this comment
  42. BobA
    BobA 8 December, 2012, 18:06

    Rex:

    Ditto. That is exactly my point. An open and free market presumes that you have a marketable product or a commodity for sale or in exchange for the same. The government has neither. The government produces nothing of any intrinsic value nor does it produces wealth. It either consumes wealth or redistributes wealth.

    I often ask the few liberals I know to name for me one item that is made, manufactured or produced by the government that anyone can buy from their local grocery market, their local department store of their local hardware store. They can’t. That is as it should be in a free market capitalist society. Anything else are but shades of communism.

    Post hoc; ergo prompter hoc, it is only right and fair that government salaries should be below that of those in private industry and never a dime more.

    Reply this comment
  43. Ted
    Ted 8 December, 2012, 18:20

    Yes bobah………and not a penny more!

    Reply this comment
  44. Douglas
    Douglas 8 December, 2012, 18:36

    Not a sou.

    Reply this comment
  45. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 9 December, 2012, 17:13

    …or a farthing Cratchet!

    Reply this comment

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