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Gov. Pawlenty: Public employees are ‘over-benefited and overpaid’

Speaking in southeastern Minnesota Thursday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that public employee benefits, salaries and entitlements need to be brought under control to resolve the state budget crisis.

He spoke to the Plainview Chamber of Commerce during a swing through southeastern Minnesota, said the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

The paper reports that the governor said: “It used to be that public employees were underpaid and over-benefited. Now they are over-benefited and overpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts.”

And he said he wants teachers’ pay tied to student performance:

“I don’t know about you, but do you get paid for how many years you’ve been on the dairy farm, or what you produce?”

The governor also said the state has to control of spending for special services, welfare and subsidized health care. He said the rapid growth of those items is “consuming almost all of the financial oxygen in the country.”

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/30/2010 - 09:52 am.

    It seems to me that while compensation needs to be evaluated, the issues that are truly driving spiriling cost of delivering government services are a) pensions and b) work rules.

    Public sector pensions have become untenable. We can simply no longer afford to allow a public employee to retire at 52 to a fully subsidized life.

    The private sector has successfully shifted the financial responsibility of retirement to the retirees…there simply was no other choice, and we all knew it. Today, there are several financial instruments available which, when properly managed, provide for comfortable retirement lifestyles. It is time our public sector neighbors join us.

    Likewise, public employee unions are simply going to have to realize that the era of “it’s not my job” is over.

    Having worked for years with union contracters, I know that projects I manage that include union workers cost an average of 26% more to finish on time.

    It’s not just the higher hourly rate, it’s the crushing burden of work rules that are crafted to ensure a large overtime bill and as large a workforce as possible to squeeze into any job.

    The companies that hire my firm expect us to deliver a well engineered project; on-time and on budget. Those budgets have been shrinking as the general cost of labor and materials has gone down; we simply have to deliver more for less to stay busy.

    It’s not as hard as some would have you believe. Many times, a little common sense and cooperation can save big dollars.

    There’s a lot of talk about “hope and change”, and I for one hope that our public sector workforce is ready for the change that is necessary.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/30/2010 - 10:59 am.

    It seems to me that while compensation needs to be evaluated, the issues that are truly driving spiraling cost of delivering government services are a) pensions and b) work rules.

    Public sector pensions have become untenable. We can simply no longer afford to allow a public employee to retire at 52 to a fully subsidized life.

    The private sector has successfully shifted the financial responsibility of retirement to the retirees…there simply was no other choice, and we all knew it. Today, there are several financial instruments available which, when properly managed, provide for comfortable retirement lifestyles. It is time our public sector neighbors join us.

    Likewise, public employee unions are simply going to have to realize that the era of “it’s not my job” is over.

    Having worked for years with union contractors, I know that projects I manage that include union workers cost an average of 26% more to finish on time.

    It’s not just the higher hourly rate, it’s the crushing burden of work rules that are crafted to ensure a large overtime bill and as large a workforce as possible to squeeze into any job.

    The companies that hire my firm expect us to deliver a well engineered project; on-time and on budget. Those budgets have been shrinking as the general cost of labor and materials has gone down; we simply have to deliver more for less to stay busy.

    It’s not as hard as some would have you believe. Many times, a little common sense and cooperation can save big dollars.

    There’s a lot of talk about “hope and change”, and I for one hope that our public sector workforce is ready for the change that is necessary.

  3. Submitted by Peter Mikkalson on 04/30/2010 - 11:57 am.

    This is true of all levels of government and and across all departments within each. Payroll is the largest component of any governmental entitity. To fail to address those large-scale immediate savings first before bothering with the remaining nickel/dimes of affected spending is a complete waste of time. This needs to be resolved now!

  4. Submitted by Jim Roth on 04/30/2010 - 12:01 pm.

    I don’t care for politically motivated generalizations, but I’d agree that he is overpaid and it would be a suitable gesture if he would forfeit his government benefits. And I don’t see him addressing any of the tax code inequities and other social policies over the past 30 years that have benefited big banks, hedge funds, and wealthy institutions and individuals over others. This looks like a sound bite for a rather privileged group. Economic issues should be addressed in a more balanced way.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/30/2010 - 03:52 pm.

    Well if Tim Pawlenty says it, it must be true. Remember that “surplus” he said we had? Clearly the guy’s an economic genius. I mean who needs fact, figures, and actually comparisons when you have King Pawlenty’s proclamations. He’s done such a good job of managing the budget he must know what the main problem is, and it can’t be a revenue shortfall.

  6. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 04/30/2010 - 04:12 pm.

    Does this serve Gov Pawlenty’s presidential aspirations?

    Of course.

    First, don’t local school boards and administrators know anything about how to run schools, or is it just state (or federal) politicians that have that expertise?

    If you are going to hold your employees (teachers) responsible for output (student performance) a good business analysis would not limit it’s scope to only one input, but would also review whether the investment in the means of production had been maintained.

    Do we have more or fewer students per teacher?
    Do students each have the minimum necessary text books and supplies or do teachers have to purchase them out of their own pockets for both classrooms and students?

    If we’re going to start using corporate pie charts, lets look at the whole pie.

  7. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 04/30/2010 - 04:15 pm.

    And have public salaries shot ahead at an unprecedented pace, or has pay for most folk in the private sector stalled out over the last decade or two (except of course for the upper management and CEOs)?

    Those stats are so easy to find Pawlenty must have forgotten that part of the anaylsis.

  8. Submitted by Mitchell Wallerstedt on 04/30/2010 - 06:22 pm.

    Apparently Gov. Pawlenty didn’t read Chris Farrell’s piece on MPR last month related to this very issue. Public sector employees most certainly are not paid more than their private sector counterparts.

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/minnecon/archive/2010/03/government-pay-vs-private-wages.shtml

  9. Submitted by Alan Davis on 05/03/2010 - 03:19 pm.

    I’m always amused when a politician runs for office by claiming he’s pure because he (usually it’s a man) has worked in the private sector. If your doctor said to you, “I’m better at treating you because I’ve never practiced medicine,” would you smile gratefully and hand him a scalpel? I doubt it. Likewise, the best public servants are those of us who’ve worked for the federal or state government for a good long time and know best how to do our jobs. As for salaries and benefits, Pawlenty should be saying, “I’m proud that the employees in state government get good benefits. It’s what I want for all Minnesotans and Americans.” Instead, he tries to divide and tear down so that he can conquer. It’s comic, but it’s also very sad.

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