California, Illinois Continue to Make Other States Look Good

Yesterday Sunshine Review, a nonpartisan non-profit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency, released its first State Government Salary Report [available online here], which analyzes public sector employee salaries in 152 local governments spanning eight states. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts, including: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

It shouldn’t surprise regular readers of Reason Foundation’s Out of Control Policy Blog that California earned a gold medal with 1332 public sector employees making over $150,000 each year. The gold medal earning Golden State topped second place Illinois, which received a silver medal for its 867 employees making over $150,000; and dominated third place Texas, which received a bronze medal for its 194 employees making over $150,000.

California had the highest paid public official of the governments surveyed, with the top spot going to Robert Rizzo, former city manager of Bell, California. Rizzo made $787,637 in 2008, but his total compensation added up to $1.5 million when taking other government benefits into account. Illinois placed second again, with the second highest salary of the governments surveyed going to William Foley, Chief Executive Health Office of Health Care in Cook County, Illinois. Foley earned $500,000 in 2011. California also nabbed third place with Elaine C. Yang, Senior Physician for Los Angeles County, earning $430,909 in 2009.

Rizzo was featured in the following piece entitled Protest in Bell: City Residents Say “Enough!”:

Another interesting takeaway from the report is that medical personnel earn more than most governors in the states surveyed, according to Sunshine Review:

(I)n 2010, for example, the average governor’s salary was $130,595. Compare this average to top earners in Florida’s public sector. In Jacksonville, Florida, the top salary for 2011 was $208,119.00 for an employee in the Medical Examiner’s ofï¬ce. For Hillsborough County, the highest earner in the county as of 2011 is the Chief Medical Examiner, who brings in $250,411.20.

This issue of public vs. private compensation is as controversial as it is complex. As my colleague Adam Summers wrote in a May 2010 report entitled Comparing Private Sector and Government Worker Salaries [available online here]:

There has been much debate over whether public sector employees are overpaid or underpaid, relative to their private sector counterparts, and how to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison of the compensation received by each since job functions are oftentimes quite different.

Summers’s full report is worth reading because it explores issues like the difficulty of compensation comparisons, productivity differences, job security differences, the rising number of government workers, public-sector pension and retiree health-care benefit differences, and more.