SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner suggested Thursday that state workers are overpaid.
But the Republican businessman's complaint does not match up with the results of a 2013 study at Illinois' flagship university.
In a report by University of Illinois labor experts, state and local government workers in Illinois were found to earn 13.5 percent less on average than workers in the private sector with comparable educations. The gap more than doubled for state workers with college degrees, according to the report.
In other words, said one of the study's authors, Rauner's premise doesn't account for a key factor in what drives labor costs: education.
"It's a myth," Robert Bruno said of Rauner's overpaid-worker assertion.
The governor's comments came during a speech to University of Chicago business students where he outlined the formidable financial challenges facing state government.
He said despite a reduction in the overall state workforce in recent years, Illinois has the third highest average government salary in the nation.
"There's a bunch of baloney going on," Rauner told the class.
"Raising taxes, that issue alone, will come nowhere near fixing the problem and in fact will make part of the problem worse and just kick the can down the road," Rauner said. "This is the critical lesson that we're seeing. We are on an unsustainable path and we need fundamental structural changes."
The governor's comments also in the midst of his own efforts to build his administration. On Tuesday for example, he hired a $100,000 chief of staff for his wife, Diana Rauner, even though the first lady has no official duties.
In their study, Bruno and co-author Frank Manzo IV, a research associate, wanted to analyze the value of public-sector workers to the state of Illinois.
They found public-sector workers account for a little more than 13 percent of the state's total workforce but their effect on the actual economy turns out to be 16 percent of the state's gross domestic product.
That means if Rauner were to cut state spending and trim the workforce, that actually could slow the Illinois economy.
On education, the study found more than half of state and local government workers hold bachelor's degrees compared to less than one-third of private-sector workers.
But state and local government workers with bachelor's or graduate degrees are significantly underpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector, earning 32 percent to 40 percent less than they would in the private sector.
"State and local government employees are not overcompensated for equal work," the study noted.