I recognize the controversial nature of the issue of whether anyone can be said to earn too much. But there seem to be good arguments for having governmental wages (including benefits) be an election issue:
The average non-governmental worker (and potential voter) on the street when asked to compare what he or she makes (including all benefits) with what a comparable governmental employee makes will usually agree that the wage differential is unfair, particularly since it is being paid by persons who are earning substantially less. Why not go for the votes of the persons earning less, since they are in the majority?
Politicians who are willing to advocate positions without fear of voter reprisal can be viewed, especially today, as refreshing and desirable, a dramatic change from business as usual which has gotten the country into the mess that itís in. Paul Hackett's campaign in the Ohio Special Election for Congress shows that a candidate can call it as he sees it, even if it goes against conventional political strategy and wisdom, and go much further than a "me too" candidate. I can't put my hands on the article that supports my point, but if you are interested you should look at the 11/05 Mother Jones article "The Ohio Insurgency - Major Paul Hackett came home from Iraq to launch an assault on a GOP stronghold. Can Democrats follow his lead?" The article states, among many things, "Hackett scored decisive wins in the white, lower-income high-unemployment rural areas that Democrats long ago abandoned. Could Ohio be signaling a shift in the political winds, at last?"
There are fewer municipal-worker voters than there are impoverished, underpaid, job-threatened, unemployed or underemployed voters looking for someone (i.e., an elected official) to help them out.
My proposal offers a carrot in the form of incentive compensation to win some municipal workers over to a more effective compensation policy.
The position of the unemployed, underemployed and impoverished voter is getting progressively worse in relation to the economic position of municipal workers, and if it wasn't the right time during past years to focus on this discrepancy it seems that now is a pretty good time to make the point.
Municipal financing is becoming worse and worse due to the excessive payments being made to the protected municipal workers, and this translates into higher property taxes and rents for all persons; it would seem to me that trying to reduce property taxes and rents would work to the advantage of a candidate if the issue is properly presented.
The issue would belong to the person running for mayor/council on these election issues and allow such candidate to create a following because of the lack of competition on that issue (until he/she obtains success with the issue and forces other candidates to adopt a similar issue).
I think voters would listen to a candidate telling them that government workers should be paid in relation to what the governed are able to earn. The local wage rates (including government salaries, which makes the average figure higher than earned by non-governmental workers) has been compiled by the Dept. of Labor in its annual survey. It must be noted that when comparing wages, the U.S. Labor Dept. does not take employer benefit costs into account, stating clearly: Wages for the OES survey are straight-time, gross pay, exclusive of premium pay. Base rate, cost- of-living allowances, guaranteed pay, hazardous-duty pay, incentive pay including commissions and production bonuses, tips, and on-call pay are included. Excluded are back pay, jury duty pay, overtime pay, severance pay, shift differentials, non- production bonuses, employer cost for supplementary benefits, and tuition reimbursements. copied from http://www.bls.gov/ro2/oes9705.htm entitled "OCCUPATIONAL EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES IN THE NEW YORK AREA, MAY 2004"
Non-governmental workers are seeing their benefits cut back while governmental workers not only get wage increases but they get benefit-package increases as well, to create a greater split in effective incomes.
Clearly, governmental workers in NYC and in many other cities, towns, villages and counties are getting substantially more than their private counterparts: The next three charts use administrative data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to provide an alternative to Census of Governments data. In 1998, the average New York City local government employee earned $46,025, 9.4 percent more than the private sector average of $45,072 in the downstate region. The BEA earnings estimate includes both a fairly accurate tabulation of payroll and a rough estimate of the value of non-wage benefits. The latter is based on national fringe benefit data, and the assumption that non-wage benefits, tabulated by industry, are the same share of payroll everywhere in the United States. Therefore, the average earnings of New York City's local government earnings may be higher than the private sector average according to this source, while its wages were lower according to the Census of Governments, because (nationally) on average local government workers receive more generous non-wage benefits than private sector workers. See http://urban.nyu.edu/research/littlefield/section2.html
A candidate should take a position that municipal employees earning less than local averages should be paid more (when taking benefits into account, of course) and correspondingly that municipal employees receiving significantly more than local counterparts should be identified and and their compensation adjusted. At the same time, the candidates program should offer the carrot of incentive compensation.
Anyway, there would seem to be powerful political issues in how tax money is spent in a town or village, and whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth.