Study: State Workers Paid Less

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

MSU economist Charles Ballard calls it an "urban legend" that state employees have an inflated workforce, extravagant wages and excellent benefits.

And he says he's got a study to back that up.

"I was surprised when I found out the extent to which public employees have shrunken in numbers and given back in wages and benefits," Ballard says at a press conference Monday.

His study-- which was commissioned by some state workers unions-- shows that all public workers, no matter their education level, make less than their peers in the private sector.

The study shows Michigan has reduced its workforce by 18 percent, or 11,000 people between 2001 and 2008, saving the state $600 million.

Other cost-saving measures taken include little or no payraise between 2002 and 2009, furlough days taken between 2003 and 2005, insurance changes and changes to pensions.

In all, it has saved the state $3.7 billion.

But some say it's not enough.

"We're paying too many people to do more things than we can afford to do," says economist Patrick Anderson of the Anderson Economic Group.

Anderson says the study is timely, but government needs to be cut in the face of a nearly $2 billion deficit.

"There's no getting around the fact that with our current income in the state and current employment level, we cannot afford to pay for all government programs at the level we had," Anderson says.

Ballard, joined by state workers Monday, says otherwise; he supports legislators raising certain taxes instead.

"I think if they make the decision based on facts, they will be compelled to think twice, three times, four times, before trying to balance the budget on the backs of state workers," he says.

He tells this study is not in response to House Speaker Andy Dillon's proposed health plan, which would pool public workers' health insurance. Ballard says he's been working on this study since March.

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