Archive for Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Government costs

July 10, 2012


To the editor:

A recent study showed that it costs a private employer around $28/hour on average for each employee and around $42/hour for the government (not counting federal employees). Approximately one-third of this is for benefit packages. Wisconsin, San Diego and San Jose have voted in overwhelming numbers to change the entitlement culture of public employee unions after seeing their benefit costs rise three to five times and finding that their budgets could no longer support the basic infrastructure needs of their cities. Stockton, Calif., files for bankruptcy. They realized that retiring at age 50 (with 90 percent of your last salary), paying 1 percent into your retirement fund and contributing a fraction of the costs of your health care are not sustainable work practices.

Kansans know that KPERS has a multi-billion dollar shortfall. Yet, over the past six years, the fastest growing segment of the Kansas economy was government. Some folks are upset with what they see as the undue influence that the Koch brothers may have on the electoral process, but they fail to recognize the same level of influence that comes from groups like the Service Employees International Union, who back candidates, and then extract lucrative contracts from the very politicians they helped elect (buy).

Where do our local public entities stand with the ever-burgeoning costs of public employees? Are they providing benefits above that of the private employer? If the private sector can hire qualified personnel and keep them at rates that are two-thirds of those in the public sector while employees pay substantially more into their retirement and health-care packages, why can’t government agencies?


KSManimal 1 year, 9 months ago

Salaries, wages, insurance benefits, and retirement programs are not entitlements. They are compensation for services rendered.

That being said, Mr. Meyer really loses the game when he claims that state employees only pay 1% into KPERS. Right......


Claudean McKellips 1 year, 9 months ago

Is KPERS is a matching program, similar to a 401K? Is KPERS really the employees own money (at least half)? If it is the employees own money, it can hardly be considered an "entitlement program." How could we possibly promise an employee matching funds and then violate that contract? How could that possibly be legal, or ethical? Do we really want to live in a state that practices such deception?

How could it be good for taxpayers or workers to give over the system to the same Wall Street tycoons who wrecked our economy? Do we want to take our money from Main Street and transfer it to Wall Street? Don't those who teach our kids, protect our streets and put out our fires typically spend their money here in Kansas, encouraging a strong local economy (unlike Wall Street tycoons)?

Certainly, it would be tough to make an argument that teaching, policing, or firefighting are the work of the lazy. One thing is for certain, none of these positions are held by people who "cannot be fired." For the first three years of teaching, a teacher can be fired for no reason, with no due process at all; thereafter, there must be a reason and due process given.

Perhaps legislators should not have been allowed to raid hardworking teachers, firefighters and police officers retirement funds for pork projects and the like. The state, as an employer, failed to fund its obligation to the pension system, while, employees have always fully paid their share into the system. In the Fiscal years 1962 -1976 and 1978-2003 the legislature put in less than the 4% the employees contributed.

The Koch brothers (who pay no taxes with Brownback's new plan, but currently subsidized by your tax dollars) and their unethical front groups have tried to convince taxpayers KPERS is broke, but I am not sure that is factually correct.


lucky_guy 1 year, 9 months ago

Why does this letter get in the letters to the editor and not something else. Who decides what letters get in. I think that the liberal media is REALLY dead. If there ever was one. As previously stated comparing public sector teachers, police, accountants, mayors and governors to pancake flippers at the IHOP and grease monkeys at the Jiffy Lube is a streach but the righties eat that up. It feeds into the meme. But my point is there was surely another letter that wasn't this stupid to print. Hmmm.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

Typical of rants such as this, it operates under two assumptions-- state workers produce nothing of value, and whatever money they earn disappears from the economy-- it's not used to do things like buy houses, cars, food, etc., that support the non-governmental sector.


chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

Hey, didn't the state already "fix " KPERS? I can't remember the particulars, but I remember it was a much worse system than what they have now with more mandatory payments and fewer benefits. I know new hires haven't been in the 85 point system for quite some time. I think they got rid of that 5 or 6 years ago. Maybe longer?


markoo 1 year, 9 months ago

Coupla things to also consider regarding the author's reference to Stockton, CA:

  1. Stockton is and has been a Red district and GOP stronghold for quite some time now.

  2. The city's incompetence is truly astounding. Granted, their pension payments are ridiculously high, but that's certainly not their only problem at hand. They've made a number of bonehead maneuvers:

"Stockton's financial health has been a victim of both the real estate collapse and mismanagement, say current city officials. Home values fell more than 50%, slashing property tax revenues. The city made ill-fated investments at the peak of the real estate boom in a new city hall that was never used and a sports stadium. Financial records were a mess. Parking fines were tallied daily by one police department employee and monthly by another department employee — then counted twice in the city budget, a $500,000-a-year error.

Stockton owes about $700 million to bondholders, including $125 million it borrowed in 2007 in a poorly timed bet to buy investments for its pension fund. The city plans to stop $12 million in debt payments immediately and reduce pension payments by $13 million a year. The elimination of retiree health care could save $19 million."

So before we all come to the conclusion that Ken Meyer seems to be alluding to - that this is a California dirty hippy librul pipedream problem involving eeeevil unions awarding lazy state workers, understand there's a bit more to this story first.


beatrice 1 year, 9 months ago

Another attack on workers ... ugh.

Private employers hire people if they believe that employees will help maximize profits. Employees are a true cost only if the employee is losing money. Otherwise, the employees are an asset that make profits possible.

If you want government employees to not cost its employer (the government) anything or to even turn a profit, expect fees for services to go sky high. Call a cop? Better have a credit card ready.


donttreadonme 1 year, 9 months ago

It's hard to understand the LTE writers case, because there are few facts and more questions than answers. But I think it boils down to this...

How little can we pay our firefighters and police, so I can get a bigger TV?


Agnostick 1 year, 9 months ago

Previously-posted story from NPR...

"Kansas and Nebraska are quite a bit alike: big, windy farm states, proud of their flinty pioneer heritage. But when it comes to the way they approach state pension funds, Nebraska's from Venus and Kansas is from Mars.

"Nebraska has its pension funds in tiptop condition, while the fund in Kansas is in terrible shape. "


observant 1 year, 9 months ago

Since Ken seems to have problem with government and their employees, can he explain why it's OK to get primarily government funding for his business interests?


1 year, 9 months ago

As stated above City/State salaries are well below that of the private sector, they make it up with benefits. How else would they get anyone to apply for the job. Sure our benefits are good (I'm not KPERs) but not having a raise in 3 years is hard to take. When we got raises it was 1-3% at best. Blame the elected officials for the good benefits and not the workers. And the comment about "nearly impossible for an employee to get fired by the govt no matter how crappy and lazy the employee is", get real, people get fired here just like everywhere else.


markoo 1 year, 9 months ago

I love Conservative blather like this. When one examines the argument a little bit closer, however, it falls apart completely:

"Studies find that public workers are paid 4 to 11 percent less than private-sector workers with similar education, job tenure, and other characteristics.[1] This wage disadvantage is greatest for higher-wage public workers. The typical middle-wage worker earns about 4 percent less in the public sector than the private sector.[2] Low-wage state and local workers, by contrast, earn a small amount more than their private-sector counterparts. (See Figure 3.)

While the average pay for all public employees exceeds that of all private workers, this reflects the fact that public-sector jobs are much more likely to require higher education; teaching positions require a college or master’s degree, for example. State and local employees are twice as likely as private-sector workers to have a college or advanced degree.[3]

Public-sector workers also earn less than their private-sector counterparts when one counts both their wages and benefits such as pensions and health insurance. Benefits are typically more generous and secure for public employees than for most private-sector workers, but factoring in the value of these benefits does not eliminate the gap between state and local employees and their counterparts in comparable private-sector jobs.[4]

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, widely recognized as an authoritative source on retirement income issues, recently found that total compensation for public-sector workers — including the value of benefits — is 4 percent less than that of comparable private-sector workers.[5] "

Gosh, how incredibly, umm, surprising to see Ken Meyer's contentions and conclusions to be full of bologna.........


verity 1 year, 9 months ago

In order to retire at 50 and get full benefits from KPERS, if my math is correct, one would have had to start working for the state at the age of 15. Don't know what percentage of salary one would get, but 90% sounds high. I'm sure somebody who comments here can tell us that.

Since the letter writer only has questions about KPERS and no facts, the letter seems to me to be meaningless, only attempting to insinuate and plant ideas.


deathpenaltyliberal 1 year, 9 months ago

Allow me to rephrase your question(s).

How little can we pay police and firefighters? Will they work for minimum wage so I can buy a new TV?


Peter Macfarlane 1 year, 9 months ago

Careers in public service are attractive for several reasons, among them employment stability and good benefits. Offsetting these positives is the reality that the private sector generally compensates its workers at much higher rates than the public sector. For those working in the professions the salary difference between the public and private sectors can be substantial.


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