Home > Latest

Public- and private-sector engineers clash in Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG), which represents 13,000 engineers, architects, land surveyors, and related professionals who work for the state of California, launched a major statewide multimedia campaign in August intended to draw attention to the work of California’s public servants. The online (www.workingforcalifornia.org) and radio campaign targets what PECG calls "the waste of taxpayer money due to the outsourcing of no-bid contracts for engineering and related services." Additionally, the campaign emphasizes that the average public employee pension is less than $2,000 per month.

The American Council of Engineering Companies – California (ACEC California) said in a statement in response to the PECG campaign, "In today’s difficult economy of layoffs and furlough notices, it is incomprehensible to us that PECG is spending tens of thousands in taxpayer-generated dollars to create and run a series of ads attacking contracted-out services and spreading misinformation about state pensions. PECG chooses expensive means and misinformation to sway public opinion into believing that state-employed engineers are a cheaper option than private companies and that restricting contracted-out services will save the state money."

According to ACEC California, a 2007 report by the former head of the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office showed the comparable cost of in house (state-employed) engineers ranged from $173,434 to $209,212, while the average cost of an outside (privately-employed) engineer was $193,000.

However, PECG Executive Director Bruce Blanning told the Capitol Weekly that an engineer employed by the state costs taxpayers an average of $103,000, including salary, benefits, and all pension contributions, while a contract engineer costs the state $232,000 per year. He said the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is currently paying about 1,300 outside contract engineers.

But, according to ACEC California, "when you consider the extra liability per state worker in pension and health care benefits – sometimes more than a million dollars – short-term contracts are a much cheaper option for the state and can actually help reduce costs.

"PECG’s misleading ad campaign states that pension benefits are only $2,000 per state worker per month," ACEC California said in its statement. "In fact, a PECG member employed by Caltrans with a term of employment of 22.7 years (the average) would have to earn less than $60,000 in the final year of employment to receive a pension of $2,000 a month. Since PECG claims that a Caltrans engineer costs over $100,000 in salary, the pension benefit for PECG members is more than $4,000.

"Furthermore, less than 10 percent of transportation engineering and design work conducted by the state is contracted out to private engineering companies. Ninety percent is handled by state employees. In light of this dramatically one-sided statistic, it is disingenuous of the union representing state workers to suggest that cost savings of any kind can be made by further restricting contracts. If anything, the opposite is true."