“Gov. Terry Branstad has complained about state worker compensation for decades,” says an editorial from The Des Moines Register. “In the early 1990s, his conflicts with public employee unions led to a lawsuit that reached the Iowa Supreme Court. During his most recent campaign, he called a pay raise for state workers “reckless and irresponsible.” This year, he used an executive order to bypass collective bargaining processes and give employees the option of paying 20 percent toward the cost of their health insurance premiums. The action resulted in formal complaints that have yet to be resolved.
“It is clear the governor thinks state workers have it too good,” the editorial continues. “So you can forgive some people if they saw no mere coincidence last week when the Iowa Department of Administrative Services released a report on state employees’ pay and benefits just a few weeks before contract negotiations begin with employees’ unions — especially when the report suggests that state workers are paid too much.
“Commissioned by the Branstad administration and conducted by AON Hewitt, the study concludes the base pay for 18,500 state workers averages 17.9 percent higher than pay for comparable workers elsewhere in the ‘market.’ … A study by Iowa Policy Project found that government workers are paid less than private-sector workers having similar educations. The Congressional Budget Office came to the same conclusion when it looked at federal employees.
“Public workers should be well-compensated. The Branstad administration itself has argued that teachers should earn more. State workers do the important jobs of protecting abused children, patrolling our highways and inspecting nursing homes. They manage complicated programs, oversee the spending of tax money and ensure that Iowa complies with numerous federal regulations.
“There are legitimate aspects of state employees’ pay and benefits that deserve serious discussion — such as the automatic annual pay increases and health insurance at no cost to workers,” the editorial concludes. “But one study suggesting state workers are paid too much deserves limited attention — especially when it comes from an administration with strong feelings about employee compensation.”
What do you think about state employee compensation, particularly as it compares to workers in similar positions in the private sector?