Montana’s state and local government employees work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide for the health, education, transportation, safety, and security needs of Montana’s residents. These public services contribute to our state’s economic growth in many ways, whether by providing for a healthy, skilled, and educated workforce, or an efficient transportation system.
A robust public sector benefits Montanans in other ways. State and local government employee earnings provide a steady economic stimulus to Montana communities and the state economy. Using IMPLAN’s economic modeling software, we found that spending state and local government employees in 2019 supported almost 22,000 jobs in the state. The total income to state residents supported by public employee wages was almost $1 billion. State and local government employee expenditures supported more than $3 billion in total private-sector economic output.
Montana’s public retirement system ensures our ability to recruit and retain experienced employees who provide our state’s public services. But pension benefits earned by retirees also contribute to the state’s economic growth. An analysis by the AARP estimates that spending from the pension checks of the 23,245 retired public employees helped support 9,287 jobs in 2019, and contributed to $1.1 billion in economic output.
Workers with strong unions, including Montana’s state and local government employees, are also able set standards for wages and benefits that help all Montana workers prosper. Research shows that highly unionized states helped lift minimum wages above the levels of states where labor unions were was comparatively weak. Unions affect the wages of non-union members through economic and political channels. Where unions are strong, non-union employers could be compelled to offer wages on par with those at unionized establishments. Legislation that interferes with public employees’ rights to join to demand fair wages, better benefits, and a safe workplace, will ultimately hurt all Montanans.