County not underpaying, others are overpaying

Earlier this month, a consultant told the county commission that county workers receive about 9 percent less pay on average than their peers at comparable counties. The recommendation was to spend about $189,000 more a year to bring county salaries and wages in line with comparable counties.

The implication was that Marion County underpays its workers, and badly. If that were the case, though, you would think the county would have a lot of trouble hiring workers away from private businesses, and private businesses would be hiring workers away from the county left and right. Plainly put, that isn’t the case.

Just because other counties have overpaid doesn’t mean Marion County taxpayers should. It isn’t just the county government. Government at-large is at an advantage in hiring compared to private companies.

Government operates at a distinct advantage in hiring workers. Private employers have to pay the employer half of Social Security taxes, but government can (and as the KPERS mess shows, often does) decide it doesn’t want to pay its equivalent amount into government retirement systems. It can wait for the bill to come due, then complain that it has to increase taxes or cut services to pay the pensions that are typically much more than what Social Security provides.

Government could prevent future pension crises and put itself on a fair playing field with private business if it would phase out special pension programs for government workers in favor of being part of Social Security while allowing workers to save additional amounts for retirement. That may be the only way to survive the looming bankruptcy of overly generous government pension programs.

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Congratulations to the Marion baseball team on its regional championship. Few enough games are exciting as the ones they played Tuesday, and it’s even more unusual to have two in a row that are so tight. Good luck to the Warriors next week in Topeka.

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A couple of people have asked me about it after reading my column last week, so I’ll share that late last week I passed my first weight loss goal, about two weeks ahead of schedule. My next goal will be to lose another 10 lbs. by the end of June.

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Memorial Day is right around the corner. Please celebrate and commemorate it appropriately and responsibly.

— ADAM STEWART

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