Government Benefits Up?

July 19, 2009

A recent article comparing government employee benefits in Florida to the private sector notes the widening disparity. The Sun Sentinel report points out that although the pay is often lower in state government, the benefits are often better. One notable summary of the article is this:

Florida’s 127,000 state workers still enjoy free or inexpensive health care, rich retirement benefits and such perks as free college tuition and ready access to financial planners.

It also points out the following:

In all, taxpayers paid $1.19 billion for employees’ health care last year, including a 15 percent increase from two years prior. Employees’ contributions declined slightly during that time, to $154 million.

Another mushrooming expense: retirement benefits.

The state’s contribution to workers in the Florida Retirement System is virtually unmatched in the private sector, at 9 to 19 percent of each worker’s salary. The bill for taxpayers has almost doubled in five years, to $1.1 billion. Employees don’t contribute anything.

This comes around the same time as reports on the newly appointed Hillsborough County (Florida) Supervisor of Elections collecting a $167,948 pension from his previous work in the county schools while being paid a $132,000 salary in the elections post. You read that right: $167,948 per year is his pension.

All of this occurs while, as the Sun Sentinel report notes, government has taken steps to increase taxes and fees on residents to make up budget shortfalls resulting from the down-turned economy. Meanwhile, the private sector has “been laying off workers in droves, cutting salaries, forcing furloughs and dropping health care contributions and matches to 401(k) accounts.”

These are just two examples of how not having to make a profit allows government to be tone-deaf to economic realities. To survive, private companies need to make a profit (the exception being those who dubiously receive government bailouts). To succeed, government need only force an increase in taxes and fees on its citizens.