NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Earlier this week I blogged about the latest newspaper project: a data base of public employee salaries and the costs of their benefits. The response has been curious.
The newspaper has printed a series of letters to the editor criticizing the reporting. Many have a common theme. Public employees were vilified under Act 10 last year. They’ve been the whipping-boys for the state budget shortfall. Letting people know how much they make adds fuel to the fire. (One important caveat: we only know about the letters the newspaper publishes. There’s no way of knowing if they’re getting letters with an opposite point a view that aren’t being published.)
This is strange thinking. Everyone who works for the government knows that their salaraies and the costs of their benefits are public information. If people want to find out, they can.
Some of the salaries that have been detailed in the Gannett reporting are unconscionable. Consider: Technical college teachers who’ve nearly doubled their salaries through add-ons like grading extra papers or teaching additional classes on weekends or over the summer. A tech teacher who earns $90,000 already gets a generous salary; if they earn another $80,000 in ‘overages’ – taxpayers should know about that. And college professors, who are paid less on-average than tech instructors, still get generous salaries and spend minimal time in a classroom. Similar investigations by other newspapers reveal absurdities like overtime for municipal bus drivers that total more than $100,000 annually.
There are two main points: First, many public employees are paid far more generously than the taxpayers who fund their salaries. Second, there are strong objections to allowing the people who are paying the freight to know about the costs.