Are state and local government employees the new fat cats? According to the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, they are. In a recent op-ed, Barnes cites examples from New York to California that show local and/or state workers pulling down six-figure salaries or pensions.

According to one study, however, public workers are paid 4 to 11 percent less than private-sector workers with similar education, job tenure and other characteristics. The Washington-based Center for State & Local Government Excellence ( CSLGE) issued the study, “Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation over 20 Years.” The center is a non-partisan, non-profit research group. A web datasheet of study findings offers more information.

The CSLGE report noted that public sector workers also earn less than their private-sector counterparts when both wages and benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, are included in the calculations. The study’s authors, University of Wisconsin economics professors Keith Bender and John Heywood, concluded: “The long-term pattern indicates that state and local workers are not, on average, overcom­pensated. If the goal is to compensate state and local sector employees in a manner comparable to those in the private sector, the data do not call for reduc­tions in state and local wages. If anything, they call for increases.”

An operator of government career websites, Dennis Damp, often writes about public sector compensation. In Damp’s views, “Negotiated benefits for workers in state governments and municipalities have skyrocketed over the years. It isn't unusual for municipal workers to receive up to 18 paid sick days plus 12 holidays including 2 personal days or more each year. In the federal government, employees receive 13 sick days a year with 10 paid holidays, still a generous benefit.”

Damp, who operates a government career website from McKees Rocks, Pa.,says government pay and pensions are off the charts, too. “Local and state government workers’ benefits and pay are more generous than the federal sector in some cases,” he says. “For example, schoolteachers in Pennsylvania with 35 years service, and an average salary of $97,265, can retire with a pension of $85,106 a year. Combined retirement income can be more than what they made while working, and this example does not include creditable non-school service!”

Here’s a discussion on federal pay and whether it’s kept pace with private sector pay.