As California tries to close a $15.4 billion budget gap, state workers—who earn 25.2 percent more than their counterparts in Texas—face cuts
California’s prison guards make more than twice their counterparts in Texas—$71,000 a year, compared with $31,000. That difference is true for state workers in general: While in 2009 the average private-sector worker in California made 12.5 percent more than in Texas, the disparity among state workers was 25.2 percent, according to Commerce Dept. figures. The difference underlines the benefits—and taxpayer costs—of working in a union-friendly state and may help explain why California has more intractable fiscal difficulties than Texas. Although Texas has a budget deficit of $4.3 billion this year, it has the second-highest credit rating from Standard & Poor’s (MHP). California has the lowest rating of any state and is struggling to close a deficit of $15.4 billion this year.
The difference in state worker pay can be explained in part by California’s cost of living, which is almost 15 percent higher than in Texas. Yet the power of collective bargaining is even more important, says Oran McMichael, a longtime labor organizer in Texas. Excluding court and legislative employees, unions represent 85 percent of all state workers in California, says Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the state’s Personnel Administration Dept. While Texas doesn’t have figures for its employees in unions, the proportion is probably less than 10 percent, State Auditor John Keel says.
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