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EDITORIAL: The public-sector gravy train

News that about one-fifth of all Clark County workers pulled in more than $100,000 last year only further highlights the generous employment terms available to many public employees. Lavish pensions and health benefits that are driving some local governments — and even states — toward insolvency also showcase the issue.

On Wednesday, a Wall Street Journal story detailing six-figure sick-day payouts to government workers provided yet another sharp poke to the taxpayer eye.

“Liabilities for public workers’ sick leave haven’t drawn as much attention as hulking pension and health-care costs faced by states,” the paper reported, “but they still add stress to state and local budgets. In several states, giant payouts are prompting outrage and calls for change from taxpayers and lawmakers.”

Among the examples cited in the report:

— Upon retirement, the president of a Massachusetts community college received more than $266,000 for unused sick time.

— A state police major in Pennsylvania netted $142,315 for 242 sick days he never used.

— The state of Florida is on the hook for $154 million in sick pay to 45,000 state workers.

“Such compensation is a rarity in the private sector, where more than a third of workers aren’t even eligible for paid sick leave,” the Journal noted.

Nevada also has issues. Robert Fellner, transparency director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market Las Vegas think tank, points out that former Clark County Manager Donald Burnette cashed out a whopping $264,328 in sick pay upon retiring last year. In addition, Mr. Burnette, who worked at the county for 26 years, the last five as its chief executive, pocketed $31,812 in unused vacation time and a $54,724 longevity payment.

In his early 50s, Mr. Burnette now collects a pension of $211,000 a year for life, padded by a $50,000 raise that county commissioners bestowed upon him in January 2015.

“It just seems we’ve created this incredible huge divide in the private and public sectors,” Thom Reilly of Arizona State’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, told the Journal. Mr. Reilly is himself a former Clark County manager who wasn’t averse to tangling with local unions over compensation contracts.

“There needs to be some balance,” he said, advocating more access to paid time off for private-sector workers and “less generous” benefits for public employees.

His is a much-needed voice of reason in defense of the taxpayers forced to keep shoveling their hard-earned cash into the steam engine that powers the government union gravy train.

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