A newspaper’s skewed view of public employee overtime compensation

The Sunday October 30th edition of the San Luis Obispo Tribune has an editorial entitled “State needs to improve overtime situation.”  In the editorial, the newspaper takes the position that state public safety agencies are wasting taxpayer dollars by paying so much overtime to employees.  They cite an example of a nurse working at the California Men’s Colony, who earned $269,810 in 2010, which equates to 3 times her normal salary.  Their bottom line is that the State is unconscionable for paying overtime when so many people are unemployed, meaning presumably that the State should hire more people to make the overtime unnecessary.

The Tribune is particularly good at pointing out that, in their opinion, public employees are paid too much.  What they fail to realize in this editorial is that hiring full-time employees to fill the gaps that are being filled with overtime would, in many cases, cost more than covering the shortfalls with overtime. When an agency hires a full-time employee, they have to pay that employee the salary plus benefits allowed for that position.

The only way to reduce expenses from public safety services is to eliminate public safety services, which certainly seems to be the rally cry for a number of conservatives.  That position doesn’t hold water when those same individuals or groups find themselves in need of those services.

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