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Public vs. Private Sector Compensation in Montana (2012)

By Glenn Oppel, MPI Policy Director

Click here for full study. (PDF – 4MB)

The State Human Resources Division (Division) of the Montana Department of Administration plays a key role in the adoption of a pay plan for state employees in Montana. It is for all intents and purposes the sole source of data on compensation used by policymakers and agency managers. Unfortunately, the data the Division produces is based on a flawed methodology and limited data.

The Division conducts a salary survey of Montana and surrounding states on a biennial basis to arrive at a private sector comparison for occupations and offices in state government. With the most recent survey, the Division determined that on average a majority of the public sector occupations studied have earnings that are 13.3 percent below what they call the “market midpoint.” The Division’s methodology is open to criticism on a number of points:

• Many positions in the public sector have no private-sector equivalent. Correctional officers and fire fighters, for instance, have no direct private sector equivalent. Comparing occupations like these to a “market midpoint” yields very little useful information.

• Comparing earnings among occupations does not account for the differences in age, education, and experience for the employees who work in these occupations.

• The Division’s analysis doesn’t include the value of employee benefits — health insurance, paid leave, pension, etc. — which make up a considerable portion of public employee compensation.

This new analysis from the Montana Policy Institute compares employees of similar personal and professional characteristics in both the public and private sectors of Montana. Instead of comparing pay in broad occupational categories, this report uses regression analysis to compare public and private employees of similar work experience, education, gender, race, and disability status. It also analyzes total compensation (which the state fails to do), including take-home pay as well as fringe benefits.

This report details the methodology and finds that public employees in Montana actually earn over 15 percent more than comparable employees in the state’s private sector.

New Angle on Ending Our Oil Dependency

This comes from an organization called Secure Our Fuels. I frankly don’t know much about them and am talking about their efforts here on the blog because I don’t have time to dig into their background or independently verify their numbers. They’re also running ads in Montana so they obviously have an agenda. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as what they’re saying is truthful and fair, and we have no indication that it isn’t.

So with that namby pamby introduction, just what’s their point that’s worth talking about here? It’s mainly that Congress is looking at cutting off 90% Montana’s gasoline supply. Well, not cutting it off but making it come from someplace else and making it more expensive. I’m going to selectively cut and paste a little rather than trying to paraphrase or quote. The bold is mine. You can get the full text at their web site.

“New Campaign Seeks to Educate Montanans on Negative Impacts of a Nationwide Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

“In any form, a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would represent a major blow to America’s economic health and strategic position,” said CEA’s Michael Whatley, a leading expert on LCFS proposals. “That’s because the energy we import daily from friends like Canada would essentially be prohibited from crossing our border. If these abundant resources are cut off, our dependence on unstable regions of the world would skyrocket, and so would the price American consumers pay at the pump.

Added Whatley: “More than 90 percent of the oil Montana consumers depend on each day comes from Canada – energy that would be banned from crossing the U.S. border under an LCFS. As such, this campaign seeks to alert everyday Montanans about the serious implications of this policy, and enlist their support in ensuring it does not come to pass.”

So tell me again how we’re supposed to get off foreign oil (I don’t count Canada as foreign. They drink LaBatt’s for crying out loud)? What happens to people who are just getting by when their gas bills skyrocket? Where’s all that compassion for the little guy?
Just one more brick on the double-talk pile from people whose real agenda is to control how we live, what we buy, how we drive, what we pay, what we say, and everything else. They say they want to reduce our energy dependence, but what they really want to do is reduce our energy, no matter what the cost to our economy.

There is no credible evidence that “green” jobs will outnumber jobs lost if energy prices skyrocket, as they inevitably would under proposals like this and its cap and trade bretheren. If there’s a market for this stuff the private sector looking to line its own evil pockets will find and satisfy that market, and satisfly consumers and manage the resources behind it in the process. Anything else is just robbing from Peter to pay Paul, with special interests and Washington insiders deciding who’s Peter and who’s Paul.

They’re just so much smarter than us. If only we’d just sit back and not worry our pretty little heads about anything but paying our taxes life would be good. Well, it’d be good for the insiders and special interests making the rules. The rest of us can eat cake.