In the train wreck that is the California state budget, one of the biggest fiscal derailments concerns the creation of a new class of highly paid bureaucrats.
Quoting a recent survey by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Ventura County Taxpayers Association reports that state workers’ salaries have increased by an eye-popping 37 percent in just four years.
The bulk of this increase involved the creation of an uber-class of 15,000 state employees who earn more than $100,000 per year and a super-uber class of nearly 1,000 hard-working folks earning more than $200,000 annually.
Four years ago, there were just eight staffers – not including university employees – earning more than $200,000.
Pile on benefits, pensions and other costs and you can see how far off track California’s budget process has become. The Chronicle report says most of the pay raises were built into the process when former Gov. Gray Davis engineered a series of long-term contracts with prison guards and highway patrol officers.
In order to gain labor peace in his time, Davis engaged in some serious appeasement, which now is coming back to haunt the taxpaying public.
With 20 out of 21 major labor contracts expiring or coming up for renewal, it seems to us that a freeze in pay for our beloved bureaucrats is decidedly in order. Freezing pay has a lot of advantages because it:
• serves as a commitment test that separates the folks who are just playing at work from the serious workers;
• demonstrates the trade-off between the job security of a public sector position, which may or may not pay as much as equivalent work in the much riskier private sector;
• offers permanent savings in health care costs and pensions; and
• allows people to quit or move so they can be replaced by people who earn less.
Freezing pay for state bureaucrats seems to be a sensible way to reduce the state’s structural deficit. It makes sense because with housing costs down and unemployment rising, unions are not in a position to demand lots of tradeoffs anyway.
A leaner, more efficient and less highly compensated workforce would be a great legacy for the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, it would begin the process of clearing away the wreckage from the Golden State’s budget disaster