Sick-time payouts spike as Minnesota state employee retirements rise

Nov 19, 2011 Full story: TwinCities

James McCormick, left, newly appointed chancellor of MnSCU, stopped by to introduce himself to MnSCU presidents who were meeting at MnSCU headquarters in the World Trade Center in St.

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PB in St Paul

Saint Paul, MN

#1 Nov 20, 2011
This is a very well-researched article. As a retired state employee, I can't argue with any of the stated facts. The quoted study of public vs. private pay rates is often quoted, and it could be better emphasized that this of course takes into account a long period of time, not just the last few years of a soured economy nationwide. There was indeed a constant migration of state workers to the private sector over the boom years of the economy, due to higher compensation there, especially in skilled areas. This has ceased over the past couple of years, but when (if) the economy picks up again, it will likely grow exponentially.
In any case, the partial severance pay for unused sick/vacation time was part of the compensation offered to people looking at becoming state employees, just as salary, holidays, working conditions, etc., were.
I do aree that some of the numbers quoted here are pretty obscene, and future payouts should be capped at some reasonable amount, maybe $15,000 to $20,00, as I think the basic idea now is to help a retiree pay for medical insurance premiums and uncovered expenses.
Let's put it this way: if you signed on to work for a private company and they promised you a $20,000 health care savings account after you'd worked for them for 20 years, and in your 19th year they said "oops, we've changed our mind, we won't do that anymore", how fair would you feel that was?
payout

United States

#2 Nov 20, 2011
I'm gonna retire soon pay up suckas.
PrivateSector

Dallas, TX

#3 Nov 21, 2011
"There was indeed a constant migration of state workers to the private sector over the boom years of the economy, due to higher compensation there, especially in skilled areas. This has ceased over the past couple of years, but when (if) the economy picks up again, it will likely grow exponentially. "

PB, while you raise some valid points, I don't think the gap between private and public employee salaries will widen. There are just too many instances where pay scales have dropped - Information Technology for instance. The current hiring frontier in IT is the Indian worker, simply because of the fact that they will work for half the money. The private sector makes adjustments in reaction to the economy, profitability, and return on investment. Our illustrious government however, reacts so slowly that the disparity in a huge amount of cases has caused the government salaries to remain high because no adjustments were made, not to mention that the government has no incentive to adjust compensation, since their answer is simply just to raise taxes.

Most large private sector businesses eliminated accrued sick leave/vacation payouts years ago. The grandfathered folks still got their money, but the change was made. Many of the best jobs out there are government jobs now, especially, at the federal level, where the waste and direct effect on the taxpayer is difficult to quantify.

The sad thing is, when government has gotten too large, and is historically and permanently inefficient, it drains the private sector. Government, by it's design, is a necessary parasite in a symbiotic relationship with the economy. It is certainly necessary, but it's always obvious what happens to a host when a parasite begins to overpower the host.

I don't have a problem with government workers getting what they were promised, but I do have a problem with nothing being done to combat unsustainable waste in the future, simply because it's easier to to take the money from more efficient workers in the private sector.
PB in St Paul

Saint Paul, MN

#4 Nov 22, 2011
PrivateSector wrote:
"There was indeed a constant migration of state workers to the private sector over the boom years of the economy, due to higher compensation there, especially in skilled areas. This has ceased over the past couple of years, but when (if) the economy picks up again, it will likely grow exponentially. "
PB, while you raise some valid points, I don't think the gap between private and public employee salaries will widen. There are just too many instances where pay scales have dropped - Information Technology for instance. The current hiring frontier in IT is the Indian worker, simply because of the fact that they will work for half the money. The private sector makes adjustments in reaction to the economy, profitability, and return on investment. Our illustrious government however, reacts so slowly that the disparity in a huge amount of cases has caused the government salaries to remain high because no adjustments were made, not to mention that the government has no incentive to adjust compensation, since their answer is simply just to raise taxes.
Most large private sector businesses eliminated accrued sick leave/vacation payouts years ago. The grandfathered folks still got their money, but the change was made. Many of the best jobs out there are government jobs now, especially, at the federal level, where the waste and direct effect on the taxpayer is difficult to quantify.
The sad thing is, when government has gotten too large, and is historically and permanently inefficient, it drains the private sector. Government, by it's design, is a necessary parasite in a symbiotic relationship with the economy. It is certainly necessary, but it's always obvious what happens to a host when a parasite begins to overpower the host.
I don't have a problem with government workers getting what they were promised, but I do have a problem with nothing being done to combat unsustainable waste in the future, simply because it's easier to to take the money from more efficient workers in the private sector.
You may well be right that the pay gap will never widen again. And I agree that future adjustments would be a good idea on the state issues. Unfortunately most vocal people, and politicians, want a "right now" fix, and lose their interest when it comes to fixes that will take a few years to start showing an effect.
And as a former state employee, I've long agreed with people who cry "cut the waste". It's even more important now with everyone feeling the squeeze in this economy. Agencies moan how the can't get by on even a 10% cut. In all the agencies I've worked for and dealt with, a 10% cut wouldn't even be noticed in terms of productivity and services delivered. I'd bet the same goes for all levels of government, including those who legislate. We need leadership with the guts to actually put the money-eating monster on a strict diet, not just blow hot air about it, and leave no "sacred cows" untouched.
Planning for the future is always harder, but more productive than reacting to the present.

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