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'No consistent evidence' Alaska's public employees are overpaid, says new UAA study

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: July 29, 2016
  • Published July 29, 2016

Alaska state and local government workers earn 8 percent less than their private-sector counterparts, but about the same when benefits are accounted for, according to new findings by researchers at University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research.

One new study, by Mouhcine Guettabi, assistant professor of economics, found government workers with low or midrange salaries generally have total compensation that's equal to or higher than the private sector — though wages by themselves are generally lower.

For higher-paid workers, both salaries and total compensation, including benefits, are "considerably less" than private-sector workers, according Guettabi's findings.

"There is no consistent evidence that state and local government employees are overcompensated," Guettabi wrote.

The research from Guettabi comes two months after Alaska House Republican leaders introduced legislation to eliminate state workers' annual and biennial pay raises — unless oil prices bounce back and help pull the state out of its budget crisis.

One of the sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, said he was unlikely to reconsider his position in light of the new research.

Johnson hadn't seen the study, but after hearing a description from a reporter, he noted Guettabi's findings were based mainly on data from 2009 to 2013 — before the crash in oil prices hit the state's most valuable industry and opened the budget deficit.

"I think the new 'raise' in the private sector is just keeping your job," Johnson said in a phone interview. "I think if you did that comparison today, you'd find it different."

A separate new ISER study, by economics professor Matthew Berman, found women moving between private- and public-sector jobs are paid less than men "in all occupations, before and after they changed jobs — and whether they changed from state to private sector jobs or vice versa."

A summary of the researchers' findings is available here. The full report is here.

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