Aug 21, 2009
Right-wing think tank continues to attack state workers
I guess sometimes they can’t help themselves.
As you may have heard, respected Michigan State University professor of economics Charles Ballard recently issued a report that said state employees earn less than their private-sector counterparts with comparable educational attainment, on average. Hard working state employees have been blamed for the state’s budget problems the last few years, and it has become very fashionable to attack and bash them. But, the fact is they have been doing more with less for years.
State employees cost taxpayers $3.7 billion less than eight years ago because of wage and benefits cuts, and 11,000 fewer workers. Under big government advocate John Engler – that’s’ sarcasm for some of my critics – we had 61,493 state employees. In 2006 there were only 52,255 employees. That number continues to go down with layoffs, and the Department of Agriculture, for example, recently ended all inspections of pet shops and riding stables, as an example.
But the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus went looking for a reason to bash the report, and it didn’t have to look hard. In a story that appears at the top of the front page above the fold on Thursday, Ballard made the true statement that state employees have made "considerable sacrifices" in recent years to help the state address its ongoing budget challenges.
That did not sit well with Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy for the rightwing think tank Mackinac Center, who said employees in the private sector had made sacrifices too. My question to Mr. LaFaive on a day when all state employees are on an unpaid furlough day: is who said they didn’t make sacrifices?
Here’s the big difference, Mr. LaFaive, no one is bashing private sector employees like they are state workers.
“LaFaive said Ballard's report only takes wages and salary into account, and doesn't include the dollar value of health and other benefits. He said a state worker on average receives $30,000 in non-cash benefits as part of their overall compensation package.”
I can’t imagine what $30,000 in cash benefits he could be talking about. He can’t possibly mean health benefits alone.
If he does, I would compare the cost of health care to that of any private company that has 50,000 employees. It’s a simple fact that the larger the pool the cheaper the cost.
Like every other American, the benefit cost per month for out of pocket, deductibles, co-pays and prescriptions have steadily increased for state employees. In fact, Ballard's study notes that the cost per month for state workers for a family health insurance plan more than doubled what they paid in 2007. In fact, since 2000, premiums for family coverage have increased by 73 percent.
Isn’t time for real health care reform?