State government workers in Illinois are the highest paid in the country, according to an Illinois Policy Institute report released Friday.
An average government worker in the state makes $59,088 a year plus benefits like health insurance and pensions, the report claims. This is $10,000 more than the national average for state workers. Wages in the report were indexed for cost of living.
Salaries for Illinois state workers have increased by 41 percent since 2005, according to state and federal data. In the same time, private sector earnings have remained roughly the same.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has been locked in contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for over a year. The union is seeking over $3 billion in higher salaries and benefits for Illinois government workers. The raises range from 11.5 to 29 percent.
“AFSCME claims it’s ‘middle-class’ salaries and benefits are under attack, but the numbers say otherwise,” Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, said in a statement. “Not only do state workers in Illinois make more than the private-sector workers who pay their salaries, the average pay for state workers in Illinois is out of step with their peers in the other 49 states.”
An AFSCME spokesman rebuffed the new study, pointing instead to a 2013 University of Illinois study. According to Robert Bruno, a U of I labor and employment relations professor who worked on the study, Illinois state workers are not overpaid.
"When you control for education and other demographic variables, it turns out that public sector workers suffer a wage penalty," Bruno said. "So it's a myth that state workers in Illinois are overpaid, and to lay the blame for the state's budget woes and underfunded pensions on state workers is just plain false."
His study found that Illinois' local and state government workers earned 13.5 percent less on average than private sector workers with comparable education.
Last year, Rauner asked AFSCME for a temporary salary freeze in exchange for new merit pay and incentive bonuses. Rauner's office did not respond to Ward Room's request for comment.
The Illinois Policy Institute is a non-profit think tank based in Chicago that supports limited government and free-market principles.