Comments on The State Government “Gravy Train”


Jason and I have received numerous comments on our report “The State Government ‘Gravy Train'” I recently received a very thoughtful email that I thought would be useful for me to post as well as my response. MHPC performs this type of research as a service to the public. As such, feedback is always welcomed.

The email . . .
Dear Mr. Moody —
I have just read “The Maine View” dated June 5, 2007, dealing with State Employee compensation. I’d like to comment on some of the findings.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a career state employee. [additional descriptive text deleted to prevent identification]
The statistics you present are just that — statistics. They are averages, and I don’t think that they give the whole story. This is at least the tenth time that I have read about the “32 percent (or some such number) higher overall compensation” given to state employees relative to the private sector. Strangely enough, I have never read an article comparing the public vs. private sector for comparable jobs. I submit to you that [X] working for the state make considerably less than their private-sector counterparts. I am sure that this is true for nurses, lawyers, and any other “professional” job you look at. I don’t have statistics on this, but I would guess that the percentage of professional and skilled trades workers is much higher in state service than the general population.
Another separate, but real, issue that dealing with “averages” does not account for is the difference in wages between Northern Maine and Southern Maine, even though state pay is the same whether you live in Portland, Presque Isle, or Lubec. It is getting to be impossible to hire and keep good people in Cumberland and York counties.
I realize that we have excellent benefits, but I would like to see you compare them to large employers in the state, not all employers, and the self-employed. I suggest that they are not so far out of line with Unum, LLBean, Bath Iron Works, TD Banknorth, or like companies. Do your statistics include the company match to retirement accounts that state employees do not receive?
I also have a question about some of the numbers you present. From July 1, 1991, to July 1, 1997, state employees compensation increased zero percent. We went six years with no raises. (Not to mention the shutdown days, furlough days, and the 39-hour work week.) Yet, during that time, you show state wages rising from $24,091 to $27,787. This is an increase of over 15%. Can you explain this to me?
Thank you for reading this letter. I really would like to hear your response to the issues I have raised.
My Response . . .
Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my report. Please keep in mind that this report is not meant to denigrate the work of the many hard-working state employees in Maine. Rather, it is one report of many that MHPC is exploring in order to understand the major “cost-drivers