The importance of transparency in government employee compensation

Rio Grande Foundation and its investigative arm, the New Mexico Watchdog, were recently the subject of a syndicated opinion piece that decried our efforts to re-create New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal by posting our own website with the names and salaries of all state government workers.

I responded with a letter to the editor of several papers that ran the column. It can be found below:

I appreciate columnist Merilee Dannemann’s concern over efforts by both Gov. Martinez’s office and the Rio Grande Foundation to post government employee pay on the Internet and to keep it there despite opposition from government employee unions.

The reason we have been so determined to keep this information available is that unlike traditional businesses where shareholders are the owners, in government, the ultimate “owners” are the people at large. In no other business do the owners have no idea what their workers are making. Ideally, in addition to simple pay, taxpayers would also be able to find out details on the pensions and benefits available to government workers.

If, as a government worker, you don’t like this, you don’t have to work in public service.

It is worth noting that New Mexico is by no means the only state to post public employee salaries on the Internet. Dozens of states do this and, as Dannemann mentioned, the information is already publicly-available upon request. I have not heard of one reported incident of identity theft nationwide.

From a “good government” perspective, transparency in compensation can lead to better understanding of how compensation is determined, whether it is indeed fair, and whether government workers are paid more or less than their private-sector counterparts. This is valuable information and can lead to more efficient government.

This is the 21st Century. It is an information century. My salary, like that of other non-profit CEO’s is available online as well. Check