Hawaii public employee benefits rise 5 times faster than in private sector

Benefits for public employees in Hawaii have risen five times faster than those for private sector workers, adjusted for inflation, according to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that Hawaii public employee benefits have increased by 26 percent in the past decade, compared to 5 percent in the private sector.

Many of the increases in compensation for state and county employees are from generous benefits packages, which include comprehensive health care insurance, life insurance, retirement programs, sick leave, vacation leave and holidays. These benefits have been increasing significantly for government employees while average private sector benefits have flat-lined in Hawaii.

Although public sector workers make contributions to their own benefit packages, Hawaii taxpayers fund the majority of benefits for government workers. On average, government workers each contribute $4,358 towards their own retirements annually, while taxpayers foot the remaining $13,966.

In addition, taxpayers make hefty contributions for other post employment benefits for public workers, averaging $10,864 for every beneficiary per year.

Taxpayers also fund 60 percent of health benefits and 100 percent of life insurance benefits for the majority of public union members.

Career state workers in Hawaii — those who work for the state for 30 years or more — average $683,262 in benefits over the course of their retirements. [i] That’s on top of Social Security benefits that nearly all state workers receive. Generous retirement rules, longer life expectancies and substantial cost-of-living increases have boosted benefits.

Keli’i Akina, President and CEO of the Grassroot Institute, said, “Hawaii’s citizens with private sector jobs are struggling to save for their own retirement, let alone the retirement of public sector employees. Regular non-government workers should not be taxed extra to pay for unaffordable increases in benefits for public workers. The state should work to bring its employees’ total compensation more in line with what the private sector can afford.”

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