Though it appears the economy is finally turning around, it may be a while before public employees see a pay raise. Early this week, President Barack Obama announced a plan to freeze federal workers’ wages for two years. It isn’t outrageous to say that Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder may follow his lead. Snyder has already said that he wants public employee payments to be “comparable with the private sector.” While freezing wages might help balance the federal budget — and could be implemented here in Michigan if necessary — top ranking officials shouldn’t fall back on this temporary solution.
On Monday, Obama announced a plan to freeze federal employees’ pay for the next two years. The freeze was a response to increasing pressure to cut compensation. While Snyder hasn’t made a formal announcement about his plans regarding state employee compensation, he has made comments about the issue during his campaign and since his election that indicate he will do everything he can to fix the economy — even if it requires difficult decisions. Snyder has said that he understands peoples’ livelihood is at stake, but that there needs to be a middle ground between “what’s comparable with the private sector and what’s financially affordable,” according to a Nov. 18 article in The Washington Post. Snyder has said he is open to discussion.
Obama’s decision, while difficult, was a necessary short-term fix in light of the current state of the economy. He explained that getting the deficit under control is going to require some sacrifice by government employees. But Obama’s decision was also an attempt to create cooperation with congressional Republicans, who will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January. Newly-elected Republican representatives already had plans to enact a similar plan when they take control of the House. This decision will hopefully decrease conflict between the liberal president and conservative House.
The state of Michigan currently has one of the most serious deficits in the country. Snyder was elected on a platform of financial management. Throughout his campaign, he has maintained that cuts to state spending will be necessary to balance the budget. But while a pay freeze is a practical and effective way to help control the budget, it’s not a great option. It is understandable that funding needs to be cut from many sectors right now, but the government needs to ensure that it is trimming fairly — and temporarily — from each department.
Pay freezes shouldn’t become a fallback option. To create a consistently balanced budget, Michigan will have to consider a long-term budget overhaul — and the federal government must reconsider its spending and taxes, too. While pay freezes can help to fix the current problem, the freeze must be lifted when the economy stabilizes and other ways of reducing the budget deficit are implemented in its place.
Snyder was elected because he assured voters that he could stabilize the economy and balance the budget. Implementing pay freezes may be a necessary component to reduce the state deficit. But the federal government can’t allow its temporary solutions to become permanent.