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Crunching state payroll and deficit numbers

   As I'm watching this train wreck of a state budget crumple like an accordion, I've wondered when any of our fearful leaders in Albany are going to start talking the obvious.

   Layoffs.

   Face it, any company in the state's position, with a projected deficit of $1.5 billion this budget year and at least $12.5 billion next year, would have started cutting jobs by now. But nary is heard a discouraging word out of Albany on this front. Yet.

   There's a lot to work with. The state employs 239,830 - as in full-time employees - and that's not including the various authorities. That head count is up 7,979 jobs, or 3.4 percent in the past two years, since the Democrats regained control of the governor's office.

   What's more, the pace of job growth has gained speed in the past year, despite a supposed hiring freeze.

   This leaves us with more state employees than we've had since 1991.

   Depressed yet?

   A review of state payroll figures complied by the comptroller's office shows some noteworthy trends.

   For starters, guess which of the 59 departments, divisions and agencies experienced the greatest growth, as a percentage of it's work force, over the past two years?

   The governor's office.

   Yup, the governor's office. It's up 25 percent, having added 35 jobs to what had been 139 positions under former Gov. George Pataki.

   The two state-funded university systems lead the way in terms of sheer job growth. SUNY added 2,441 jobs, the City University of New York 2,204. Together, they account for more than half of the state's overall job growth.

   About half of the rest are in three health-related departments - health, mental health and mental retardation and developmental disabilities. They total 1,826 jobs.

   Next in line is the judicial system, up 832 jobs.

   Who has lost jobs? The biggest drop has been parks, recreation and historic preservation, down 167 jobs, or 4.8 percent.

   So, with all this said, how much do you save by whacking jobs?

   The average state worker costs $86,858 including both wages and benefits.

   I did a spreadsheet that costs out various scenarios, involving anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 job cuts, which would account for anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of the state workforce. (Mario Cuomo cut about 18,000 jobs in the early 1990s in the face of a fiscal meltdown.)

   Cut 5,000 jobs and you save a little less that $435 million a year. Cut 25,000 - 10 percent of positions - and you save $2.2 billion.

   Considering what we're up against - a need for some $14 billion in cuts - my math tells me that layoffs don't make much of a dent in the deficit.

   Suppose you go whole hog and cut 10 percent of jobs. Roll back spending to the level of two years ago. You end up saving about $8 billion. That still leaves you with $6 billion to go.

   Ouch.

   Next year is going to be ugly. Real ugly.

   The Empire Center for New York State Policy publishes something called Public Payroll Watch, which is where I've drawn my numbers from. Here's the latest report. Here's another report from a year ago, which includes an expanded analysis.

   Finally, the Empire Center publishes a blog called Public Payroll Watch, which includes links to the day's related news stories  I've added it to my favorites list - maybe you should, too.

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State government
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