For years, Milwaukee County has been a bloated government entity. Spending has been out of control as the politicians continued to expand what the government controlled, and they didn’t seem to care since it was “only” taxpayer money.
When Scott Walker became the County Executive, he made a promise to not add more to the taxpayer burden. He’s kept that promise, and “essential services” have not suffered. Even non-essential services haven’t suffered.
There has been lots of crying as Walker forced the Parks Department to reign in spending to do their part in balancing the budget. Those in favor of massive spending on Milwaukee County parks believed that the system was being destroyed by Walker, and they shouted loudly about our poor, poor parks.
But the blatant lies by those who want more and more legal theft of taxpayer dollars were exposed when the Milwaukee County parks won the National Gold Medal for Excellence by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association. Seems the prudent spending hasn’t impacted the parks negatively.
And now we turn our attention once again to the wage and benefit situation for county employees. They have long been the recipients of high wages and astronomical benefits.
The private sector currently has an average benefit cost of 41.3% of total wages. Wages and salaries average $19.39 per hour, while the benefits cost an average of $8.02 per hour. That’s a total wage and benefit cost of $27.42 per hour in the private sector. So benefits of $8.02 per hour, compared to wages of $19.39 per hour, equals a benefit cost of 41.3% of wages.
I’ll suggest to you that this ratio is a result of whatever the market deems appropriate. That is, employers are likely in this range if they want to be competitive, while at the same time the costs are still manageable.
To heck with reasonable costs, however. Milwaukee County has long been out of line with that average. The county’s current budget has benefits which cost 74.35% of wages.
Now of course, some will say that’s because government workers are underpaid. I disagree. By and large, we see that pay for government jobs is often rather generous, so this higher percentage is not because of some depressed wage rates.
And the next budget looks to be even worse for Milwaukee County. According to this calculation, 2010 benefits for county employees will be a whopping 93.31% of wages.
But who cares??? This Milwaukee County Board now wants to add to the costs and already enormous $80 million budget deficit by handing out more benefits. The latest proposal suggests providing health insurance benefits for domestic partners of any sex. They’re pretending that the cost would “only” be $3.9 million if an estimated 3% of employees took the option. And we all know how these cost estimates go. They’re almost always wrong, and the reality almost always goes against the taxpayers.
Those in favor of this proposal cite “fairness” as a reason to provide these benefits to domestic partners.
I have an idea to make the issue of health insurance “fair” in the workplace. All employers offering health insurance, both private and public, should provide insurance for the employee. The employee then has the option of paying for insurance for their family or domestic partners. That way, every employee is getting the exact same benefit (single coverage), and they’re free to purchase anything additional that they desire (family coverage).
I’ve long felt that those providing health insurance to employees do so in an unfair manner. Employees who are married and/or have children receive far more compensation than single employees via the health insurance benefit. Family coverage is inherently more costly than single coverage. Why should some employees get a much larger benefit than those who choose to remain single and childless?
I’m all in favor of being fair. Let’s fairly offer insurance to the employees, and then allow them the ability to purchase any additional coverage they want. We save Milwaukee County tons of money, and we are 100% fair to all employees, no matter who they live with or marry, no matter what the sex or the legality of their relationship. Problem solved.