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Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Swarming the Strib Post #1

Took a look at their commentary pages this morning. State Auditor Pat Anderson says that the Minnesota has to make some adjustments to their pay cap on local government workers. Minnesota has a law capping the salaries at 95% of the governor's salary.

The governor's $120,303 salary, however, has not changed since 1998, leaving local governments to deal with a salary limit ($114,288) that was set to reflect the fiscal situation seven years ago.

The outdated nature of the cap has caused many local governments to have difficulty recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff. Because no other state in the country has such a limit, Minnesota's best and brightest are frequently tempted to leave for higher salaries in other states. This also puts our state at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting talented people.

Now maybe I'm just out of touch with salary scales here, having worked as a small businessman for the last 20 years, but does $114,000 sound like a pretty decent living? I'm guessing that maybe 10% of all households make that much (and quite a few of those are double-income couples). But to listen to this column, it sounds like a lot of county and municipal workers are getting pretty close to that level:

In addition, many local governments face salary compression issues, where several levels of senior staff are bumping up against the cap. In these cases, local governments are forced to pay the same amount to top administrators that they pay to other employees the administrators oversee. This sort of compression leaves employees with no financial incentive to accept promotions to positions of greater responsibility. Instead it provides an incentive for qualified employees to look elsewhere for advancement.

That's idiotic. I remember in 1979 I was promoted to supervising nine people. I was making $261 a week, and one of my raw trainees was making $253 a week. Yeah, I griped about it, but do you think I said, "I'm not taking that promotion"? Not on your life; I knew that eventually somebody would pay me for that experience. And if multiple levels of county and municipal staff are now butting up against the $114,000 cap, I'd suspect it's because the lower levels at least are being paid far too much.


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