Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our View: State Hires Workers as Taxes Rise

California has been having budget problems for a long time, and now some are beginning to criticize the state about the number of new government workers that are being hired. Check out the following article on the controversy courtesy of the Colusa Sun Herald.

Do you ever get the feeling that the public works for the government, rather than the other way around? That’s the sense we get, especially during tough economic times. The private sector is slashing jobs, and taxes are going up, thanks to the recently enacted state budget plan. Freedom Communications Inc., parent company to this newspaper, announced a furlough program Friday that mirrors similar cutbacks being made by the newspaper industry nationwide.

But the government isn’t tightening its belt. In fact, a Sacramento Bee analysis of the state government found that its “full-time workforce continues to grow despite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to freeze hiring amid a historic budget shortfall.”

Over an eight-month period, most state agencies expanded their workforce or kept the same number of employees. A fewer-than-promised number of part-time employees were laid off.

“The overall number of full-time state employees increased by roughly 2,000, or 1 percent, excluding the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, which always shrinks sharply outside of fire season, the figures show,” according to the Bee. “While the increase is modest compared with other years, it clashes with the belief that the state workforce must shrink to meet the current economic downturn and resulting drop in state revenue.”

So once again we see Schwarzenegger’s promises are not to be believed. That should surprise no one given this supposedly anti-tax governor championed a huge tax increase. The same governor who promised to blow up the boxes of government is doing his best to make those boxes bigger. And now his promises to cut the part-time workforce are empty. The permanent bureaucracy seems to rule things in Sacramento, so even as the rest of the state contracts, its ranks expand.

The California Highway Patrol has expanded its workforce by an astounding 3 percent. At the local level, cities are still pushing for expanded pay and benefits for their workers. USA Today reported last year that, “State and local government workers are enjoying major gains in compensation, pushing the value of their average wages and benefits far ahead of private workers.” It’s a nationwide trend, although no other state has the fiscal mess faced in California.

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