Costs of public employment in the Aloha State

A study released by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii details salaries and benefits for government and private sector workers in the state of Hawaii. The study shows that unsustainably high government salaries and benefits may be putting Hawaii’s pension fund in danger.

According to Dr. Keli’i Akina, President/CEO of the Grassroot Institute, “Hawaii’s unfunded liability crisis has topped $23 billion for pensions and health benefits for public retirees. Salary hikes and pension spikes have worsened the debt, which is beginning to devour the state budget.”

Dr. Akina continued, “The growing debt is already leading to cuts in services for public safety, education, homelessness relief efforts, and many other important government programs. It also has the very real possibility of jeopardizing the retirement benefits of public sector workers.”

“The pension system in Hawaii is crumbling. While public workers deserve competitive salaries and benefits, the current system of raising taxes to afford it is unsustainable. Hawaii’s citizens are struggling, and our leaders need to work together to fix the problem immediately without pushing the burden onto taxpayers or future generations.”

The report shows that:

  • County workers in the state of Hawaii make among the highest wages in the nation, adjusted for cost of living.
  • Government benefits in Hawaii have grown five times faster than benefits in the private sector.
  • Unfunded liabilities for local government benefits have grown to the highest point in history at $23 billion.
  • Taxpayers pay 76 percent of the bill for government pension and health benefits for retirees, despite Hawaii state and county workers comprising only 15 percent of the total workforce.
  • Hawaii’s government is now growing faster than the private sector.
  • Police and fire workers make the highest wages among all county departments, averaging over $75,000 per year, not including benefits. Keep in mind that overtime can double these numbers.
  • Private sector median wages are only $38,750 per year.
  • Increased payment for pension debt may cost taxpayers an extra $336 million every year, devouring state and local budgets.


Click below to download the full report:
The Costs of Public Employment in the Aloha State

Click below to download the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics Data on Hawaii Wages Compared Nationally

Click below to download the open records data from the Maui County Department of Finance
Earnings Report Detail 7.1.13 – 6.30.14 UIPA request

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