Once again Nevada has earned a worst-in-the-nation ranking.
An analysis of 2016 payroll data by Key Policy Data found Nevada’s state and local public employees are the least productive in the country, according to a news account by Watchdog.org.
Though researcher J. Scott Moody found that Nevada’s state and local governments employed only 11.7 people per every 100 workers in the taxpaying private sector, the lowest ratio in the nation and well below the national average of 15.7, Nevada pays those “public servants” far more than the private sector, the highest in the nation.
Public employees were paid 54 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector, which is 295 percent higher than the national average of 14 percent. The gap has grown like topsy, from only 6 percent in 1969 to today’s 54 percent.
Moody said the driving factor for the gap are the benefits provided public employees, many growing due to union contracts.
In state and local benefits Nevada public employees were provided 286 percent more than those in the private sector, the highest benefit gap in the country, while the national average was 127 percent.
“It is unfair to private sector workers because they are ultimately footing the bill for these very generous benefits,” Moody said. “Additionally, it hurts the private sector overall because it distorts the labor market as workers are enticed into the public sector. The private sector has to raise compensation to compete for labor, but that can make Nevada’s businesses uncompetitive in the national or international marketplace.”
He added that it is easy for politicians to “kick the can down the road” by increasing benefits today, knowing the bill won’t come due for years or even decades. The bill is now coming due.
Here is how the compensation gap breaks down by county: In Carson City, public employees are paid 258 percent more than private sector workers in total salary and benefits; Clark, +61 percent; Washoe County, +55 percent; Douglas; +46 percent; Lincoln; +46 percent; Lyon; +41 percent; Churchill, +37 percent; White Pine, +27 percent; Elko, +26 percent; Mineral, +21 percent; Nye, +19 percent; Humboldt, +15 percent; Storey, -20 percent; Lander, -22 percent; Pershing, -28 percent; Eureka, -41 percent; and Esmeralda, -47 percent.
It should be noted, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, that 88 percent of the jobs in Eureka are largely better paying mining jobs, while 60 percent of Lander’s jobs are in mining, 52 percent of Esmeralda’s and 30 percent of Pershing’s. But only 1 percent of Storey’s jobs are in mining. Go figure.
Michael Schaus, the communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, blamed the compensation gap on local public worker labor unions.
“A big part of it is on the local level,” Schaus said. “The local governments in Nevada tend to have very, very strong unions and as a result, every year they seem to get a little bit more pay, a little bit more benefits and, of course, that all comes out of the taxpayer pocket. State level employees, I don’t believe that they’ve actually increased quite as fast and that’s largely because they are not unionized.”
As we have suggested editorially over the years, Moody recommends Nevada lawmakers change the retirement benefits for public employees from the current defined benefit program, which guarantees a percent of one’s final salary for life upon retirement, usually well before the age of 65, to one similar to the 401(k) funds used in private industry.
It is time to put the brakes on what Nevada pays its “public servants.” — TM
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.