MacIver Institute: Underpaid Public Employees Getting Screwed Again

Image courtesy of MacIver Institute

I am a firm believer that government employees are too highly compensated. While the perception is that these people are public servants, doing work out of the goodness of their hearts for little pay…. the reality is that they are  mediocre employees who took their jobs because they are secure jobs which require little performance for far too much pay. (Yes, I realize there are some government employees who are exceptional. But I believe that the vast majority are average at best.)

Last week the MacIver Institute released its findings related to sick leave benefits accrued by retiring state workers in Wisconsin. As you probably expect, the results show that state workers are receiving benefits unlike those of any private sector worker.

State employees in Wisconsin who retired between January and September of 2011 took benefits equaling more than $342 million of unused sick leave. This accrued sick time is used to purchase health care benefits following retirement. This $342 million represents a tremendous burden upon the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

What’s so wrong with this? The employees earned this sick leave, didn’t they? I’m not disputing that these workers simply took the benefits that were available to them. My problem lies in offering such a benefit to start with. The cost is too high, and the benefits are unwarranted.

The 2,700 retiring Wisconsin employees had an average of 1,716 hours of sick leave banked in the ASLCC (Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion Credit Program), or the equivalent of 43 weeks of work. These hours are then multiplied by an employee’s highest basic hourly rate, and the dollars are used to purchase health care benefits.

People in the private sector simply don’t have such a benefit available to them. Retirees in the private sector are almost always on their own when it comes to health insurance. (Unless of course they’re represented by union bullies, but that’s a different discussion.)

For years, government employees have had jobs which offer pay and benefits above that which is available in the private sector, and such compensation systems are unsustainable. While sick leave is generally available in the private sector, there are almost always strict limits on how much time can be carried forward. In contrast, government workers have the ability to carry forward unlimited sick time, and can cash it out at the end to pay for valuable health care benefits.

I’m not against a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, but the compensation systems that have been set up for government employees are not sustainable. While private sector wages and benefits are stagnant, those  people are being forced to pay more and more taxes to pay for out-of-control government spending.  This is a huge problem. And as you have figured out by now, the headline above is sarcastic.

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2 Comments

  • Joel Ungar says:
    17 October 2011

    1,716 hours? How is that even possible?

  • Steve says:
    23 October 2011

    @Joel: You have to remember that these public employees have on the order of 16-days of sick leave available each year. I don’t know about you, but I might need sick leave all of one or two days per year. Pretty easy to come up with 1700+ hours.

    But the real point here is that the fox is watching the henhouse. There is no one looking out for the taxpayer. Often, school administrators and school board members are former teachers and friends with those in the teacher’s union. As well, those who “negotiate” (collude) with other public sector unions receive campaign contributions from those same unions. Conflict of interest anyone? So you see the problem.

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