The digital age has brought about many wonderful additions to our lives. But one of the best additions is the ability to access information with ease. With this ability it is easy to understand the results that have been shared by the Aon Hewitt study that the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) commissioned concerning the compensation of employees of the State of Iowa. We have heard the arguments from both sides about government workers being paid too much or too little, so what should one believe? Thankfully, with the internet, we have the ability to lift the veil on the issue. The transparency issue has allowed us access. We can look at the data and research to understand where everyone is coming from. State salary data is now published every year on-line.
The Des Moines Register ran an article on October 30, 2012, about the release of the study from the DAS. In that article the State AFSCME President Danny Homan is quoted as saying, "more smoke and mirrors by the Branstad administration to try and make the dedicated state employees of Iowa look bad." Is this more smoke and mirrors? No, the Branstad administration should be commended for taking the time to review the pay of Iowa employees and have the knowledge they need heading into the negotiations with the union. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the money that is paid to all state employees is taxpayer money. As taxpayers, we want our money spent wisely. This study allows the Branstad administration to have a good understanding of what the workers of the state make compared to similar private-sector and government jobs in other states.
An argument that we have heard repeatedly is that state workers have more education than those in the private sector. But if I have a job that requires a high school diploma and I have a master's degree, that doesn't mean that I should earn the salary of a master's degree holder when I am doing the work that requires a high school diploma.
This report concluded that "actual base pay is, on average, significantly higher than the external market consisting of both public and private employers (17.9 percent market)." Unfortunately, as the union negotiates for raises it will be a hard sell for the average private-sector worker in Iowa, who has to pay for healthcare and receive a wage that is 50 percent less than what the average state employee is making, especially when they are the ones paying the taxes to pay state-government wages. So the Governor's administration has a rough road ahead of them as they take on the project of getting state wages back in line with the wages of those in the private sector of the state.
So if we visit the statement from the Union President Danny Homan, it is easy to see that the Branstad administration is doing nothing but finding out the facts concerning state wages and trying to offer the state employees wages that taxpayers can afford. Also, this report isn't intended to mislead Iowa taxpayers, but to provide a study from an outside source to help inform taxpayers of the disparity in private versus public-sector wages that we have known for a while. It is time that the state employees' wages and private-sector wages are brought in line with each other.
Jennifer Crull is the IT Specialist at the Public Interest Institute in Mount Pleasant.