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Ordinary Citizens Are Slaves to Their Public Masters
by Jon Coupal 3/25/08

Had a raise in pay lately? For many Californians the answer is "no." Their major concern in these uncertain economic times is just hanging on to their jobs.

However, when it comes to pay increases, some of our citizens are faring much better than others. These are workers employed by the state of California.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California is tops in pay for public employees. And their situation is getting rosier and rosier.

Research by the Sacramento Bee reveals that pay for state employees is surging, especially for those in the top tier.

Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

Four years ago those employed at a base salary of more than $200,000 annually amounted to about three dozen. Today the number of workers making that much is approaching 1,000.

Pay for the top 20% of state employees has increased about 20% in four years, from a median of $77,904 to $92,808. Those in the bottom 20%, which include janitors, typists and a variety of assistants, have seen their salaries increase at a slower rate, about 10%, the median going from $32,244 to $35,532.

The highest-paid 10 percent of state workers earn a median annual salary of $107,580, up almost 25 percent from November 2003.

Taxpayers who work so hard to pay these salaries will likely receive little comfort form knowing that when a reporter asked about the Bee's findings, Department of Finance officials noted that the leaders of several state departments still make less than their counterparts leading similar agencies at the county level.

While those representing state agencies have dozens justifications for the high pay, and those representing the public employee unions have scores of reasons why the pay is not high enough, the bottom line is that, in general, state employees are doing much better than their private sector counterparts, especially when factoring in the lavish pension and health care benefits. And then there is the intrinsic value of the greater job security that comes with government employment.

The percentage of state spending that goes to compensation of all forms is much higher than it has ever been. State agency employers need to conduct careful salary surveys before raising pay for high-earning professionals in the state work force. They need to review the demand for positions, and if the demand is high, taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for higher salaries.

Most taxpayers do not resent good pay for public employees. The problem begins when average hardworking citizens see state workers, who in theory work for them, doing much better than they are.

With the state facing a $16 billion deficit and calls from the Legislature and governor for tax increases to close the gap, most California working people do not want to see their taxes go up so that public employees can continue to ride the gravy train.

Considering how generous taxpayers already are to public employees, maybe it's time for a moratorium on public sector pay raises -- especially for those in the top tier -- until taxpayers can do a little catching up. CRO

copyright 2008 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association



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