Take a Cut Please

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med_Pamelas_Mug_copy55The State of Oregon would like those of us who are not employed in the public sector to believe that state employees are sacrificing and contributing to our economic challenges by taking a few days off during the year without pay.

However, the fact of the matter is that even during these taxing times, on average state employees are making more money, and receiving more benefits at the expense of hard working taxpayers.

In 2008, the average base rate salary was $47,724 for state employees, according to data from the Department of Administrative Services. Average benefits for retirement, medical, dental and vision coverage in 2008 were $20,407.In 2009, both went up. The salary average is now $48,459, and the benefit average is $20,569.

Public employee unions have served their members well over the years, too well. Although huge unemployment lingers in the state, cuts are made to basic services for residents and numerous people are going without healthcare, state employees are not feeling the pinch at all.

This year the Service Employees International Union bargained to maintain health coverage as a fully paid benefit for its 22,000 Oregon government workers. Including nonunionized employees and those represented by other labor groups, all 51,000 state employees in Oregon get the same benefit.

Oregon’s medical benefits for state workers are among the most generous in the country, according to data gathered this year by the National Conference on State Legislatures and recently reported by The Register-Guard.

Private-sector employers in Oregon and four other Western states pay, on average, $4,513 a year for each employee’s health insurance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The State of Oregon, meanwhile, says it pays an average of $12,845 a year for state employees’ health insurance.

If Oregon voters fail to kill the potential tax increases in measures 66 and 67, they will be helping preserve “gold-plated medical benefits” for state workers. One of the tax increases is on individuals’ taxable income above $125,000 and couples’ taxable income above $250,000, and the other is on businesses.

Coupled with very generous healthcare benefits for state employees and the expected $1.5 billion shortfall in the Public Employees Retirement System our elected officials would have to be in complete denial not to realize that the whole system is simply out of sync.

It’s just a travesty and no one appears to have a clue about what to do about it. pha

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