Ohio public pay called too generous

State employees in Ohio receive $9.89 per hour more in wages and benefits than their private-sector counterparts, according to a report released Thursday by a conservative watchdog group.

This disparity is larger than in 44 other states, according to the report from Washington D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste. It gives Ohio the grade of “F” compared to other states.

A major driver of this difference, according to report authors, is generous public sector pensions: “Taxpayers in every state are struggling to grasp the sheer magnitude that state and local government unfunded pension liabilities are having on programs and services,” it states.

In Ohio, the conditions the report illustrates have long been the focus of attention. On Wednesday Gov. John Kasich signed a major overhaul of Ohio’s five public sector pension systems that will cost workers billions, require them to work longer, reduce cost-of-living adjustments and make the programs solvent.

“We’ve seen these reports before in the past,” said Dennis Willard, spokesman for the group We Are Ohio, a group which fought back a challenge to public sector unions last year. “These reports we believe are often done with a goal in mind rather than trying to reach some sort of scientific and logical finding.”

“Working people feel like they are under attack and this is just one more example of trying to dumb down or divide and reduce people’s wages,” he said. “What’s the answer here? To reduce peoples wages? What we need is a strong middle class and that means everyone’s paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”

Report authors advocate “rein(ing) in the excessive compensation for state employees that has been identified in this report because increased wages in the public sector bring a disproportionate increase in benefits.”

“People should enter public service because they are more passionate about their work than the size of their paycheck,” the report concludes.

The report compares data in 22 job categories that exist in both government and private companies. In these categories, the average Ohioan in the private sector takes home $24.91 in wages and benefits compared to $34.80 for state employees, the report said.

The biggest difference is in architecture and engineering jobs, where 2,533 state workers make on average $60.59 per hour, which is $29.37 more than their private sector peers. Those in the private sector were paid more in eight categories; those in management and financial operations made significantly more than their public-employee counterparts.

Nationally, the report authors say state governments pay on average 6.2 percent more per hour in wages and benefits than the private sector in these fields. Utah has the lowest disparity, with state workers there earning an average $28.70 versus $24.74 in the private sector.

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