March 22, 2010 1:38 PM
The Orange County Register

Average pay and benefits in December for state and local government workers cost 44.4 percent more than for private-industry employees, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Total compensation for public employees averaged $39.60 compared to $27.42 for their private counterparts. Government wages averaged $6.70 an hour higher and benefits were $5.49 more.

In benefits, the biggest difference was in average health insurance costs: $4.45 for government vs. $2.01 for private industry. State and local governments also paid more to its workers in leave and in the retirement and savings categories than private employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Government compensation outstripped private pay and benefits in every category except in so-called supplemental pay, which covers overtime, shift differentials and non-production bonuses. In that category, private-worker costs were 82 cents versus 33 cents for government employees.

One way to determine if government sector pay is too high is in comparing voluntary quit rates, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute. Workers for state and local government is one-third that of the private sector, according to federal statistics. That suggests, according to Edwards, that state and local pay is higher than needed to attract qualified workers.

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