Did your income stagnate, or rise only slightly, in the years after the major recession a decade or so ago?

If you answered yes, you have something in common, in terms of compensation for your labor, with many state employees represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

But that’s probably about the only thing.

Are you expecting to get raises adding up to 10% to 15% over the next two years? And a 3% cost-of-living boost? Are your health insurance premiums staying steady? Can you cash in a week’s worth of vacation pay every year if you maintain at least 60 hours in reserve?

Statistics suggest that relatively few private sector workers could answer yes to all, or even any, of those questions. Yet 24,000 state workers represented by SEIU are in line to get those benefits in a two-year contract that’s possible because the Oregon Legislature, even as it was boosting taxes and fees for residents, set aside $200 million for state employee pay hikes.

It’s reasonable for the state to try to make up, partially, for workers’ lean years in the past. One reason lawmakers could do so is that Oregon’s economy has improved, yielding higher private sector incomes and thus tax revenue.

But double-digit increases are exorbitant. Baker County’s annual increase in per capita income averaged 2.6% from 2010-17. The average during the 2000s was 1.6%.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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