Will union ‘thugocracy’ rule the day?

July 21, 2011

In 2008, government employee wages and benefits accounted for one third of Illinois state government spending and two thirds of Illinois local government operations spending. Recently Governor Quinn made an effort to kill promised pay raises for about 30,000 state workers. After all, every dollar paid to a public employee must come from a local, state, or federal taxpayer. At the time I questioned the impossibility of the task Governor Quinn had before him.

 It has now come to pass that a rocky road indeed lies ahead for Governor Quinn and the State of Illinois. As reported by the Illinois Policy Institute on Tuesday, July 19, government unions are suing the State of Illinois for not issuing what would have been their third round of raises in just seven months.

The Illinois Policy Institute Policy Point Report, Out of Sync: Government and private employee, paints a striking picture of the discrepancy between government employee compensation packages and those employees in the private sector.

Consider the following based on the assumption that two employees are of equal skills when beginning to work either for the state or a private company.

 •The average compensation for an Illinois state government worker was $69,500 in 2008, while private sector compensation averaged just $56,500.

•In real terms, private sector compensation of wages plus benefits declined 2% over the past 15 years, while state worker compensation increased by nearly 18%.

•Government workers routinely receive superior job security, superior sick time accrual, earlier retirement, and higher retirement incomes.

 •Over a 35-year career a state government employee would receive $22,457,000, $484,000 more than the private employee.

•Over a 40-year career, the average Illinois state government worker will receive about 510 more paid vacation days than the average private sector worker.

The facts speak for themselves. At a time when workers in the private sector are being asked to make sacrifices (Many small businesses are failing.), greed seems to prevail among union officials. State government workers are not receiving unfair treatment, but instead are living high off the largess of taxpayers.

Even while on the picket lines, public workers know they have it good. This is why government workers are fighting tooth and nail to keep their plushy arrangements. Is it any wonder why turnover rates among state workers are a fourth of what they are in the private sector? Dealing with the parity issue between those who pay for government and those who are paid by government is a necessary step to solve this state’s fiscal crisis as more people and businesses flee from Illinois.

The Illinois Policy Institute recommends undertaking reforms such as moving from a defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution retirement system. Such reforms must take into full consideration monetary and non-monetary factors. Because turnover rates may serve as the best indicator of job attractiveness, policymakers should seek to align compensation with the private sector.

This will indeed be a challenge for legislators and elected officials in a state where unions have gotten away with their “thugocracy” brand of politics for decades.

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