NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 6, 2010

Several states and many municipalities are on the verge of bankruptcy, chiefly because of the vast sums they are paying in salary and benefits to public employees, says Jack Kelly, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force. 

According to a study by the Cato Institute: 

  • In 2009, state and local government employees had total compensation packages that averaged $39.66 per hour.
  • This is 45 percent more than the $27.42 per hour earned by workers in the private sector. 

Government employees make more in part because they have more education than do workers in the private sector.  But it's mostly because of the strength of public employee unions and the willingness of political leaders to give them taxpayer money in exchange for votes and campaign contributions, explains Kelly. 

"We are paying much, much more money to deliver government services that (with few exceptions) are not performing any better, and the single biggest line item in that cost increase is employee compensation," noted Matt Welch of Reason Magazine. 

Education is a good example: 

  • A whopping 27 cents of every state and local tax dollar goes to K-12 education.
  • In 2008, according to the Center for Education Reform, $10,889 was spent per student in public schools. 

The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (2003) indicated the longer our kids are in school, the worse they do compared to our international competitors: 

  • U.S. fourth graders were a little above average in math, eighth graders a little below average and high school seniors near the bottom.
  • In science, our fourth graders were near the top, eighth graders a little above average and 12th graders near the bottom.
  • Students in charter, private and parochial schools outperform public school students by most measures, despite spending much less per pupil; however, public schools do have to educate more high-cost, special-needs children. 

Source: Jack Kelly, "Public workers are straining state budgets and ought to accept cuts," Jewish World Review, June 14, 2010. 

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