In late July the Washington Examiner examined the salaries of city employees and found that — surprise! — salaries of City of Madison and City of Milwaukee employees were far out of whack compared to the salaries of those whose taxes pay their salaries.
What does “out of whack” mean? According to the U.S. Census, as of 2011 the average per capita income in this state was $27,192, and the median family income was $52,374. The average City of Madison employee makes $62,233 per year, and the average City of Milwaukee employee makes $61,729 per year.
The Examiner has done a similar comparison with county employees, this time comparing “average county worker salaries from the Census Bureau’s 2011 Government Employment & Payroll survey, and compared them with the median salaries of full-time workers in the same counties, from the Census’ 2009-2011 tally, to account for cost of living differences.”
So here’s the Wisconsin list, ranked in the nation:
74. Milwaukee County: Average county employee salary $54,994, which is 136 percent of the median salaries of Milwaukee County full-time workers.
111. Racine County: Average salary $54,364, 129 percent of median.
129. Rock County: Average salary $51,304, 127 percent of median.
132. Brown County: Average salary $51,529, 126 percent of median.
134. Kenosha County: Average salary $56,638, 126 percent of median.
137. Outagamie County: Average salary $54,847, 125 percent of median.
138. Walworth County: Average salary $50,970, 125 percent of median.
150. Fond du Lac County: Average salary $50,661, 124 percent of median.
152. Sheboygan County: Average salary $50,988, 123 percent of median.
174. Dane County: Average salary $55,630, 120 percent of median.
County employees in at least 10 counties — which means probably more than that, since the list ended at 117 percent of median — make more money by themselves than not only the median (as in half above and half below) worker in those employees, but make more than the median income of a family in this state. It’s not hard to see how UW Prof. Katherine Cramer Walsh was able to observe, “In most communities, the public workers are the ones who are rich.”
It also exposes the lack of veracity of claims by public employee unions during the Act 10 debate and resulting Recallarama that public employees traded lower pay for better benefits. When a government employee by himself or herself makes more money in a year than the average Wisconsin family does, that employee is getting better salary and benefits. It would be nice if the unions had been honest about that, but honesty has never been a strong point with union leadership in the political sphere. You’ll never get a union mouthpiece, particularly a teacher union mouthpiece, to admit, for instance, the reality of every workplace in the world — some employees are better than others, some employees work harder than others, and some employees work harder than their salaries and some barely meet the minimum requirements for their work. And unlike at a business that you choose to use or not, taxpayers are paying the salaries of good, bad and average government employees.
Public employee salaries are important for taxpayers to know because (1) taxpayers pay their salaries, (2) public employee salaries and expenses are the highest expense in nearly every unit of government; and (3) public employee pensions are the next looming fiscal crisis in some areas, except for those areas (Detroit, Illinois and California, for instance) where pensions are not a future crisis, they’re a crisis now.
I eagerly await the Examiner’s next examination of state employee salaries vs. those who pay their salaries through taxes. That one may be even more revealing. (I’ll give you another group who makes by themselves nearly as much money as the average family in this state: State legislators.)