Our county government is at it again. The Hidalgo County commissioners just approved the addition of 26 new positions to the county payroll and increased the county minimum wage to $12 per hour. That’s a 19 percent increase from the current $10.10 minimum wage.
How many taxpayers would like to receive a 19 percent pay increase? I know I would.
How many small business owners can afford to give that kind of pay raise to their employees? Most can’t.
We have come to the point where many businesses cannot compete with the county and other tax-supported entities, such as the school districts, for quality employees. Small businesses, which are an important part of America’s economic engine, cannot afford to offer the benefits offered by our city, county and state governments. Even America’s largest corporations have stopped providing pension plans, because it is too expensive.
But for the government, cost is not a problem. Just raise taxes. And in Texas, where most local government revenues come from property taxes, they don’t even have to increase the tax rate, just let the appraisal district increase the property valuations.
Years ago, government jobs paid much less than private sector jobs. But there were reasons for that. First of all, government jobs offer security that many private sector jobs do not. It’s a trade-off. Job security, versus higher pay.
Another reason the private sector historically paid higher wages is the private sector demands high performance. The private sector business must compete with other businesses to survive, let alone thrive. To be competitive, private businesses demand high productivity and efficiency from their employees.
While I have never worked for a governmental entity, I did work for an electrical utility company for 10 years. At the time, utility companies were much like the city or county government. They were a monopoly with no competition in their market area. So, there was no pressure to be competitive, to push employees to work harder.
The main reason I was dissatisfied with my job at Houston Lighting and Power Company was seeing the slackers, who spent most of their time in the coffee bar, get the same pay raises as those of us who were motivated and worked hard.
While this may not be exactly what you would see today at city hall or the courthouse, there is a different culture that exists in our tax-supported, governmental entities. There is no competition, thus there is no impetus to achieve greater efficiency or to demand greater job performance.
As I have often told our elected officials who oversee local government, I would rather have two hard-working employees than four lazy ones. As we all know, it is difficult in today’s environment for these governmental entities to get rid of those borderline workers who just aren’t the hard workers we’d like to have.
It doesn’t matter if one gets paid $10 an hour or $100 an hour, the employer deserves a full day’s work for a full day’s pay – even if that employer is the county or the city.
Pay raises for employees in the public sector should be merit based, just as they are in the private sector. The county has no business raising the minimum wage 19 percent in one fell swoop, with no regard for job performance or return on the investment of the taxpayers’ dollar.
Is it right for the government to take a man’s money (they call it taxes) and use that money to drive up the cost for his business to hire employees? Is it right for the government to hire a man’s best employees, offering them better wages and more benefits than that man can afford to pay, using his tax dollars to do it? Think about it.