One of the great challenges that cities, counties and states face is hiring and retaining competent, reliable employees. Things were a little easier during the Great Recession, when public service was the proverbial port in a storm for many job applicants. But private entities are hiring again. At the same time, governments are facing a growing wave of retirees, making it a greater challenge to maintain an adequately trained workforce.
There are some obvious -- but largely impractical -- approaches to this issue. Cities and states could, for example, raise pay levels. For most, that’s unaffordable. Or they could provide heftier benefits. But given the killer costs of pensions and postretirement health care right now, boosting benefits is fiscally and politically unsupportable almost everywhere.