Taxpayers as ATMs

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Kudos to KRQE’s Matt Grubs for his investigation into sick-leave abuse at the Public Regulation Commission. He exposed two employees for taking “unusual amounts of sick leave immediately prior to quitting,” a practice that “runs counter to PRC policy, state personnel rules and state law.”

New PRC boss Valerie Espinoza wasn’t pleased, telling the reporter: “I mean, to pay somebody sick leave that’s not actually ill is a travesty. Because you’ve got to remember it’s taxpayer money we’re talking about here.”

The report is another reminder that life really is different in the world of state-government employment. The sick-leave abuse was approved by a supervisor, and it remains to be seen if the PRC will take corrective actions.

But the larger issue of unfair pay and benefits¬†deserves attention from the state’s elected officials.¬†In 2014, research by the American Enterprise Institute showed that the “total compensation differential” between comparable government and private-sector positions in New Mexico was 20 percent.

The Land of Enchantment’s economy is sagging, and Medicaid-driven expenses are putting the state’s treasury in further jeopardy. With the legislative session set to get underway next week, now would be a good time for lawmakers to examine how employee¬†overcompensation contributes to fiscal stress.