Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for hearing my testimony today. My name, for the record, is Geoffrey Lawrence and I am deputy director of policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
I’d like to speak briefly regarding the fiscal impact of unionization at the local government level in Nevada. Public employees in Nevada, by any measure, are highly paid – particularly at the local government level. We really have a caste system in Nevada wherein public employees maintain lifestyles far above the taxpayers who support them. On average, public-sector workers in the Silver State are paid 28.1 percent higher than private-sector workers in a similar job classification.
This disparity is most pronounced at the local government level where administrators are required to negotiated collectively with workers. NPRI has reviewed the most recent annual statistics on public employee pay published by the US Census Bureau. Those figures reveal that state workers in Nevada, on average, are paid 7 percent more than the national median for state workers while local government workers are paid 31 percent more than the national median. This is in spite of the fact that Nevada enjoys a relatively low cost of living. In fact, including benefits, public employees in Nevada are the third highest paid in the nation – behind those of CA and CT and ahead of states with remarkably higher costs of living.
This wage premium adds significantly to the labor costs faced by local governments and constrains their ability to respond in cases of extreme fiscal crisis. Based on the Census figures, NPRI has calculated that, if local government workers in Nevada were compensated merely at the national median, local governments would realize a savings of $2.3 billion over a two-year period. I refuse to believe that there is anything extreme to the notion that workers in Nevada should be compensated at a level approximating what comparable workers are paid in other states.
If Nevada lawmakers do not amend the Silver State’s collective bargaining statutes to give more leverage to local government administrators, this trend is likely to be exacerbated even further.
Testimony Heard by Legislative Operations and Elections Committee
(Geoffrey Lawrence/NPRI) – Here is my testimony regarding SB 98, a bill that would change Nevada’s collective bargaing statutes by granting more flexibility to local government administrators: