State hiring up despite deficit balloon

SACRAMENTO But a /*Sacramento Bee*/ analysis of the last nine months shows the state hired roughly an additional 2,000 people outside public safety, even as the budget deficit ballooned and California faced a huge cash crunch.

The state employed 204,500 full-time workers last June. By November that number jumped to 206,000. It dipped slightly in December, before jumping back up to 206,650. The number of employees went up in 66 agencies.

"State government is still living in a fantasy land and not the real world," said /*Jon Coupal*/, president, /*Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc.*/

Taxpayer groups call the move unbelievable, especially during times when private businesses are laying off workers.

"If somebody has the mindset that we can continue to spend the same amount of money we've spent in the past, we think they're sorely mistaken. There needs to be retrenchment," said Coupal.

/*Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger*/ defended the move. During bad economic times, he says, government services are increasingly burdened with higher demand.

He noted unemployment offices, for example, needed to add another 100 employees to answer phones and help process record jobless claims.

"We had to, of course, bring more people in," said Gov. Schwarzenegger. "And that's how we create a bigger workforce. That's natural. But the most important thing you should know is, during my administration, government grew only 3.7 percent. That's the lowest of any governor in recent history."

The governor's aides also point out union contracts make it impossible to shuffle workers from one department to another, but that new union contracts will eventually save nearly a billion and a half dollars with furloughs, job eliminations and other cost-saving moves.

Surprisingly, the /*U.S. Census Bureau*/ found California has one of the leanest state governments.

"If you figure out the number of workers per 10,000 people, we rank 49th out of 50 states," said Prof. Tim Hodson, executive director, /*Sacramento State Center for California Studies*/. "For most of the last 10 years, we rank 50th. We do not have an over-bloated state work force."

"Government simply needs to prioritize its spending with the money it has," said Coupal.

It's also interesting to note the state's largest public employee union, /*Service Employees International Union*/ (SEIU), has a lot of influence in the Capitol. During the last two-year legislative session, lobbying records with the Secretary of State's office show SEIU spent nearly $11 million, the most of any interest group.



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