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Cities going broke: Can Scranton's minimum wage plan work? (+video)

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In Arizona, for example, state workers have not had any pay raises in five years; Florida state employees have had their pay frozen for six. And, in California, where there were no pay raises for two years, Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking a temporary 5 percent pay cut this year from public sector workers. Next July some of the Golden State workers may be eligible for a 3 percent raise.

In November of 2009 President Obama, in an effort to show he was doing something about the budget deficit, froze the pay of federal employees for FY 2011 and 2012. However, federal employees could still earn “within-grade” or “step” pay raises that are linked to years of service.

But not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of public employees.

Bill Beach, the director of the Center for Data Analysis at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says that despite the recent austerity there is evidence, which he acknowledges is “heavily disputed,” that government workers make more than if they worked in the private sector, which also has had to tighten its belt because of the slow economy.

“We argue there is a wage premium that state and federal employees receive largely through their generous pensions and the guarantee of job security,” he says.

The media relations department at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees did not comment.

Meanwhile, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government sector has lost 633,000 jobs since January of 2009. The bulk of those – some 511,000 – have been local government employees.

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