Are government employees getting paid too much?

Victor Joecks

Competing viewpoints from Sunday’s RJ.

Steve Hill, chairman of the State Policy Task Force of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, says yes.

Recent Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce studies have shown that Nevada’s public employees are the sixth highest paid public employees in the country. Those studies also point out that there is a significant difference in the pay of local government employees and those employed by the state of Nevada and the private sector. Local government employees make nearly 30 percent more than those employed in the same job in the private sector and state government.

Additionally, retirement benefits, through our Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), are the most generous of any state in the country — a benefit for which local government employees contribute nothing from their paychecks, and for which state employees typically contribute one-half the cost.

As a result, we spend approximately $1 billion every year to fund the difference in compensation for local government employees versus what the same employee would make if he or she did the same job for the state.

Don King, president of the Las Vegas City Employees Association, says no.

As members of the city’s largest employee union, we have repeatedly tried to negotiate concessions that are fair to both the residents and employees of the city of Las Vegas. We understand that the economy has changed. We know that times are difficult and that, the public sector, like the private sector, must be willing to share the pain. We understand that and now, more than ever, we know that mature judgment, honesty and respect are called for…

From the city’s rejection letter dated May 18, it is apparent that the city is still demanding the 8 percent wage cuts and holding everything else. The city asked for several concessions from employees with no guarantee that any of the employees would keep their jobs. The proposal included flattening all wage increases: no cost-of-living adjustments, no step increase and a freeze on longevity pay; furloughs; a four-day workweek; splitting the PERS rate increase with employees; no guarantee on employee restorations from layoff lists; and an allocation method for placing people at lower jobs classifications on a lower pay grade — if they are hired back. This has been pretty much a one-sided negotiation process with the Las Vegas City Employees’ Association being the only party willing to negotiate.

So who’s right?

Well here’s the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce study that found that Nevada’s public employee pay is sixth-highest in the U.S. NPRI’s research has shown that the average firefighter in Clark County receives over $170,000 in compensation. And if you want more details, head over to, NPRI’s clearinghouse of public records and public employee salaries.

Also check out Cato’s new video, titled “There Are too Many Bureaucrats and They Are Paid too Much,” which details how there are too many bureaucrats and they are paid too much. He’s not talking specifically about Nevada, but the information is still pertinent.

Government salaries and benefits are out of line with private-sector compensation and need to be restrained accordingly. And let’s hope this happens before PERS (the public employees’ retirement system) consumes the state budget.