PUBLIC EMPLOYEE unions often defend their members’ pricey pensions by claiming the benefits make up for salaries that are lower than those in the private sector.
A study released Thursday undermines that rationale. In California, wages of state and local government workers are similar to, or slightly higher than, wages for comparable workers in the private sector, according to the analysis. Add in pension and retiree health benefits for government workers, and the total compensation for career public sector employees is substantially more than in the private sector.
California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, which has been spearheading efforts for a statewide pension reform ballot initiative, commissioned the study. The work was done by Michael Genest, state finance director under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Brad Williams, former fiscal consultant to the Democratic-controlled state Assembly Appropriations Committee and former chief economist of the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office; and Jay Peters, an actuary and retirement benefits expert.
The salary-comparison analysis is tricky. That’s why there has been little reliable information to support or refute the unions’ claim of lower salaries.
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