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For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-16-2007, 10:39 PM   #1
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For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

For anyone who has bought the bill of goods that government workers have all these extremely great benefits, etc., let me set the record straight.

I currently work for my State government - have done for 23 years. When I first started, the salary lagged a bit behind the market, and that's always been the case. They claim they try to keep our wages at market rates, but by the time the legislature gets the data and approves raises to bring us up to prevailing rates, the data is up to 2 years old, so we're "catching up" with the prevailing rates of 2 years ago. But it used to be OK, because the benefits when I started WERE pretty great.

Not so much anymore. Some years ago, the citizens of my state adopted a "taxpayer's bill of rights." Not a bad notion - the theory was that the State's income should stay at the level it was at that time, keeping up with growth and inflation, but no big increases. Problem is, it was very badly written, and the way it works, it tends to ratchet down the State's income each year. To explain how it works, say a family had to live on this. Say the family made $50,000 one year. The next year, they could make $50,000 plus inflation, plus any new income brought in if, say, the oldest kid started working. But say the next year, Dad got laid off, and the family's income dropped to $23,000. The next year, even if Dad was rehired, the family could only earn $23,000, plus growth, plus inflation. That's what's happened to my State. We've had a few recessions, had to cut back, but then when the economy recovered, the State could not recover what it lost. There are also provisions that prohibit the State from saving or holding funds, from issuing bonds or any kind of debt for long-term expenses, etc, and there's another amendment that requires that the State's budget balance every year.

The legislature has been hard-pressed to maintain programs with the ratchet effect keeping income at the depressed levels from the declines a few years ago. Their solution, unfortunately, has been to pick the pockets of the State employees. Our benefits are now 79% of the prevailing market, 49th of 50 state governments. They haven't funded merit increases for several years now, and they haven't always funded the salary survey, so we're about 11% behind the market, pay-wise.

I'm fortunate, in that I came in before a lot of this, and capped out under the previous "step-based" pay raise system, so my salary has hovered near the top of the pay scale for my position (I'm at about 75%), but most of my coworkers languish at around 25%. Last year, my agency hired two people who quit the day after they started. Took one look at the benefits and quit. The State's turnover statewide is about 11%, and it's 50% among newer workers, who have been hired in the last 5 years. The only people sticking around are us older workers who are nearing retirement (our retirement plans are still pretty good). We just get people trained, and they quit! What a waste of resources!

Of course, because that's the case, the average age of State workers is about 4-5 years above the average among private sector employees. And our insurance rates are MUCH higher, because it costs more to insure those older workers.

So not only does our insurance cost more, but the State doesn't even kick in market level contributions. Which of course just chases more newer workers out the door, which of course means that the workforce ages more, which of course means insurance goes up more....

Anyway, all this is lead up to the punchline. This year, after a great deal of debate and much fanfare, the legislature just voted to bump our benefits to (gasp) 85% of prevailing. I was all excited until they released the new benefits prices. Even with the bump, insurance rates went up so much that my premium is going to jump 31%.

What's the state going to do when all us oldpharts jump ship, and leave the agencies staffed by half-trained, underqualified, underpaid newbies?

One reason that the public legislating through constitutional amendments is a horrible, horrible idea. There's just no way to fix the constitutional problems that are at the core of this - not without a majority vote of the citizens.

Anyway, rant over. GOSH I want to retire! So depressing, thinking that the bump in benefits would help, and getting zapped even harder.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-16-2007, 11:29 PM   #2
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by LKH
and leave the agencies staffed by half-trained, underqualified, underpaid newbies?
And how exactly would I notice any difference from the stellar service I'm currently receiving from my state and local governments?
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-16-2007, 11:35 PM   #3
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the other "fringe benefit". The prestige.

Seriously, the people I work with right now work a LOT harder than ANYONE I worked with in the private sector, and they have to overcome a LOT steeper obstacles. Low-bid equipment, crummy attitudes from the public they are supposed to serve, appallingly poor compliance (so we have to do a LOT of hand-holding to make sure the public we serve gets what they're supposed to), and regulations that often contradict themselves - but we're supposed to make it work. But it's this kind of attitude in the public that makes it so easy for the legislature to cut into our wages and benefits in order to balance the budget when things get tough. Nobody gives a rip whether we're compensated fairly.

You think it's bad now? Wait until you have less qualified people trying to make things work.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 07:40 AM   #4
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by LKH
You think it's bad now? Wait until you have less qualified people trying to make things work.
That's the main reason I bailed out early from a municipal gov't job.....well, that and I COULD!

They hired an incompetent dip-sh*t to be superintendent of the department. He had his certifications from the State.....makes one wonder who he knew at State level to pass the tests! He came in knowing NOTHING about the operations of our plant. He'd NEVER even worked with our type plant. He's been there 6 years, and still has NO clue how the place operates. He won't take the time (or effort) to learn.

I had been there over 30 years and had learned the operation there in LESS than 3 years. And I had NO previous experience at all. He was in the same field for 27 years, and he can't won't try to figure it out! So since he wouldn't learn how to run the place, the rest of us had to do it.....besides doing our own jobs!!!

The "high" point came the day he b*tched to us, that he wasn't paid enough to perform those mundane tasks. Those 'mundane tasks' being learning the operations of the plant! The maintenance man "went off" on him instantly at that point, and the rest of us followed suit! That was the day I decided that instead of waiting until the end of the early retirement incentive "window", I was bailing at the FIRST chance!

He now has the newest guy there....my replacement....running the operation and making the decisions! The guy has NO clue what he's doing....just like the dumb*ss superintendent...and they BOTH think things are OK!!! In the 30+ years I was there, we were out of state compliance 1 time! They've now been out of state compliance EVERY month since the 2 "geniuses" took the reins.

Neither of them will ask for advice or help, and they turn the other way if anyone even offers!

Probably 95-98% of the municipality's employees are conscientious, hard working souls. But there are a few (very few) bad apples. Over the years we had joined together to get rid of the lazy dumb*sses who gave the rest of us a bad name. And we had succeeded on several occasions....we even got one of our former supers terminated! But this new dumb*ss super is a super brown-nose, and the "higher-ups" love him. And they'll continue until the state steps in and starts fining them for non-compliance!!! Then his *ss is grass!

As for the general public here....they're pretty satisfied with our public employees. Of course there are the few that can't be pleased regardless of what you do!
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 07:44 AM   #5
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Just one added note to my previous post:

If the election goes the right way today, the dumb*ss superintendent will being getting the ax from the new administration! Certain of the candidates know what's happening in the departments, and aren't too pleased with things as they are.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 08:12 AM   #6
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Quote:
Originally Posted by LKH
For anyone who has bought the bill of goods that government workers have all these extremely great benefits, etc., let me set the record straight.
I don't know if "government workers have all these extremely great benefits, etc" but the example does not prove or disprove the assertion.

Several analysis that might add light to the issue one might be:
- For a class of employee e.g. clerk/cashier or building maintence; compare the total benefit package of an government employee versus a no government employee. I think two analysis would need to be done - one on a state level and the other on a national level.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 08:25 AM   #7
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by soupcxan
And how exactly would I notice any difference from the stellar service I'm currently receiving from my state and local governments?
I've never had a problem with a gov't agency at any level. I'm especially impressed by the IRS -- their website is fantastic and their "customer serivce" telephone reps are wonderful.

My billing staff doctor's office, my health insurance company, our bank, the local autobody shop.. talk about being staffed by cretins.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 09:56 AM   #8
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Quote:
Originally Posted by dex
I don't know if "government workers have all these extremely great benefits, etc" but the example does not prove or disprove the assertion.

Several analysis that might add light to the issue one might be:
- For a class of employee e.g. clerk/cashier or building maintence; compare the total benefit package of an government employee versus a no government employee. I think two analysis would need to be done - one on a state level and the other on a national level.
I think this is pretty accurate.....most are paid quite well compared to the private sector....maybe engineers and lawyers could make more on the outside......even have had some government employees post on these boards that their "skills" werent transferable....

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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 10:08 AM   #9
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by LKH
What's the state going to do when all us oldpharts jump ship, and leave the agencies staffed by half-trained, underqualified, underpaid newbies?

One reason that the public legislating through constitutional amendments is a horrible, horrible idea. There's just no way to fix the constitutional problems that are at the core of this - not without a majority vote of the citizens.
What will the state do: What our state is doing - outsource everything and then turn over the monitoring and oversight to the contracted entitities.

As of constitutional amendments: I agree 100%. First, they are hard to write so that they deliver the intended consequences. Also, every amendment my state has seen in the last 5 years is something that IMO should have been addressed as a policy issue not a constitutional one. As someone who develops policy, policy issues address taxation, funding, and allocation of resources for goods or services. Constitutional issues should reflect fundamental rights, fairness and justice, like issues related to biases. Many put policy on the constitutional side bu saying the current tax and funding practices are "not right" or "not fair" but, those change over time and with state's circumstances (hence policy).
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 11:33 AM   #10
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Thanks for the intelligent replies, guys. After the first one, I was tempted to go away and never come back. I'm already depressed enough without being hammered by people who don't know what we accomplish or what we have to overcome to get it done.

Dex, there have been studies, at least in my state. The employer contribution to our benefits plan is currently 79% of the typical contribution in the private sector. And our insurance premiums are rising even faster than in the private sector, because the average age of employees in the State is higher than in the private sector (because they can't hang onto younger workers). They just "generously" bumped us to 85% of prevailing, and even with that bump, my share of premiums went up 31%. My state is 49th out of 50 State government in terms of benefits. Other States may offer better packages, but probably only the top 10 are at or above market, and typically, government wages are a bit behind the market. Fair enough - government is not competitive, so we don't need to attract the best and brightest. But if competence is the goal, they have to at least attract the AVERAGE workers, and right now they're not doing that, at least not here. Those of us who came in before all these problems started are nearing retirement, and the new people coming in aren't sticking around long enough for us to benefit from the cost of training them. That's money down the toilet.

The legislature might THINK it's more important to fund programs than the personnel budget. But unless they can offer employees enough to attract and retain people competent to make those programs work, they're just throwing money away.

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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-17-2007, 11:40 AM   #11
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Oh, and Sandy, the DS superintendent - I've never really understood why agencies insist on hiring in people who never did the job to become the bosses. I guess sometimes it saves a lot of intrigue - it can be tough on the workers to see someone who was once a peer become "the boss." But if they choose wisely, it can work. In our section, they chose a guy we all acknowledged was well-qualified, who has an easy-going personality, and who was previously an attorney, so his background gives us some expertise that helps a lot. Nobody minded seeing him get passed ahead, even those of us who'd been around longer. It's worked out well. That's one area where I'm actually pretty blessed.

Oops! Off break now! Back to work!

L
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-18-2007, 12:34 AM   #12
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by Sandy
As of constitutional amendments: I agree 100%. First, they are hard to write so that they deliver the intended consequences. Also, every amendment my state has seen in the last 5 years is something that IMO should have been addressed as a policy issue not a constitutional one.
We have the same problem on the municipal level with 'ordinances'. One that was not a financial issue (for once), was about a total ban of ALL city owned AND city purchased property. One of the upper echelon goofballs was using his city owned vehicle to haul his wife and kids out of town every weekend to to go shopping and visit relatives....50 miles away. He kept the child safety seats in the vehicle at all times, and wouldn't take it out for any reason.....even during work hours. So the city a**holes fathers passed the ordinance to totally ban ALL use of ALL equipment except during actual work hours. (it wasn't too well planned or written)

Therefore, emergency personal are no longer allowed, by the ordinance, to carry city owned cellphones, pagers, or 2-way radios home, even though they are on 24 hour emergency call. The police are no longer allowed, by the ordinance, to carry there city purchased side arms home. The workers in the public service departments (water, sewer, streets, parks, etc.) who are required under other city ordinances to carry a city owned cellphone 24 hours a day because they are on call, are now banned from carrying that cellphone home, and are therefore in violations of the the other ordinance that requires it!

All that needed to be done, was to tell the stupid S.O.B. that he could not use the city owned vehicle for personal use. It should have been a simple management issue....a policy, NOT an ordinance....but his higher-ups, didn't have the balls intestinal fortitude to stand up and say so! Bunch of gutless wonders!

Then people wonder why government is so fouled up.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-18-2007, 03:21 AM   #13
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

There are probably a few govt workers that are fairly highly paid that make out, or figure out how to double dip and get health benes.

I am sure it depends a little whether or not one works for state, local, or federal govt... plus the type of profession... But, I would be very suprised if govt employees do better than private industry on average. We just hired someone that was at a local govt job. This person had dismal low pay. Highly educated and in a hot field. I estimate that this person was making about 65% of what the market was paying for similar skills.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-18-2007, 12:51 PM   #14
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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I am sure it depends a little whether or not one works for state, local, or federal govt... plus the type of profession... But, I would be very suprised if govt employees do better than private industry on average.
I am a federal employee, and when I took this job I was offered half again as much as my faculty salary had been at LSU. Industry offers more than I am making, by up to 15-20%. There are two reasons why I don't take a job in industry.

(1) I don't suppose one can beat the feds for benefits, job security, and organizational stability.
(2) A job in my field in private industry or academia requires upwards of 80 hours/week.

In government, I work 40 hours and go home. I'm not even ALLOWED to work over, unless I take comp time. So for me, federal employment is a better fit. You are right, though; industry pays better (at least in my profession).
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 04-18-2007, 03:39 PM   #15
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

I am a state troll too. Also took a pay cut (just got out of military) taking this job. I could have been a headhunter making decent $$$$ and working recruiting hours (was a military recruiter)...but wanted to stay close to my military roots - and had worked with great veteran reps while recruiting. My occupation/vocation happens to be public sector...most of the veteran programs are funded by the public agencies. Oh well. Most of my co-workers are hard working and believe what they do does make a difference. The constraints (see Want2Retire's overtime comments) can get frustrating at times, but I am learning how to work around cope with them. Not all civil servants are here just to take the easy way out.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 05-01-2007, 04:27 PM   #16
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

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Originally Posted by LKH
Seriously, the people I work with right now work a LOT harder than ANYONE I worked with in the private sector, and they have to overcome a LOT steeper obstacles. Low-bid equipment, crummy attitudes from the public they are supposed to serve, appallingly poor compliance (so we have to do a LOT of hand-holding to make sure the public we serve gets what they're supposed to), and regulations that often contradict themselves - but we're supposed to make it work. But it's this kind of attitude in the public that makes it so easy for the legislature to cut into our wages and benefits in order to balance the budget when things get tough. Nobody gives a rip whether we're compensated fairly.
Why do they (you) do it? If conditions and pay are so bad, and things are so much better in the private sector, I would imagine that any reasonably intelligent, self-interested civil servant would jump ship as soon as possible.

As the above implies, I have little patience with people who complain about their jobs and carp about how good everyone else has it.
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Old 05-01-2007, 04:44 PM   #17
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Looks like this thread won't die.

I have a friend who works in State gov. He has less responsibility, works fewer hours, has more paid time off and much better benefits than I do after 33+ years in industry. I make a little bit more than he does but once I retire he will have a huge edge on income supplied by the State.

He will have essentially free medical coverage: I will have none (from my current employer)

He will have a pension (COLA) paying 60% of his current salary. I have no pension from my current employer.

In the final wash, he will have a more secure income stream and did not have to save as much $$ for a nest egg. In fact, he did not have to even save a nest egg with his benefits; especially when he hits 65 (66) and can take full SS.

I considered working for the State or Fed. gov. many years ago but did not want to be a slave to them for a pension etc. It was a personal choice and one that I don't regret. My higher salary and need to save for my ER allowed me to in fact do so. If his pension gets cut by the State, we will be hurting; and this is getting more and more likely each year as the Teachers have already been hit with a COLA freeze.

The grass is always greener.....
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 05-02-2007, 10:43 AM   #18
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

I am reasonably sure that, for satisfying and not too demanding employment, civil service jobs are the best paid considering the NPV of all their benefits. It is just too much like indentured servitude for me.

The private sector offers the chance to hit the homer and make out much better but not on average. My pension after 25 years was 40% non-COLA so I had to make it up with lucky investments. Benefits are also non-COLA so become more of an expense every year.
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 05-02-2007, 11:40 AM   #19
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Our raises this year: 0% and a $1,000 bonus (approx $700 after tax). No merit, no ingrades, no COLA

Only way to increase pay - jump to a different j*b.

This does not help moral nor does it help continuity or competency of service to the public.

Usually when the legislature pulls this, it is during a recession.

At the same time, the legislature mandated pay increases for the private insurance companies who serve many at-risk citizens and elimination of the requirement that these insurers spend at least 80% of their contracted $$ on actual services.

Did I mention that these companies have board members who have been placed in key political appointments?
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods
Old 05-02-2007, 12:56 PM   #20
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Re: For anyone who has bought the bill of goods

Quote:
Originally Posted by soupcxan
And how exactly would I notice any difference from the stellar service I'm currently receiving from my state and local governments?
Quote:
Originally Posted by LKH
Thanks for the intelligent replies, guys. After the first one, I was tempted to go away and never come back.
LKH, why are you surprised at that sort of comment? Perhaps you and your co-workers are doing an excellent job of serving your customers. But the typical taxpayer meets a state employee at the DMV. I'm sure we could start a thread titled 'Tell me about your day at the DMV" and it would quickly fill with 12 pages of abuses. Every time I need to go there, I feel like a 98 pound weakling at the annual Bullies Convention. They have something I need, they know I can't get it anywhere else, and they act like it.

So, if you want more respect for state employees, encourage the state to clean up their act with everyone that interfaces with the customer. Like it or not, one bad apple.....

On the positive side, I'd say the Post Office has improved over the past ten or fifteen years. Oh, that's right - they have *competition* now. Private companies are *doing* (at a profit!) what the Post Office said could not be done. Imagine that.

I appreciate Want2retire's input on this. She took a federal job, she sees the pros/cons and decided to stick with it. We all make our choices. What is the sense of complaining, when there are alternatives?

-ERD50

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