June 19, 2011

Protecting Bureaucratic Overhead

Oklahoma paid state employees some $42 million in bonuses last year regardless of their performance, the Tulsa World reports today. But we mustn't let that news -- as indefensible as it is unsurprising -- distract us from the most important fact regarding state employees: We've got too many of them.

Recently in The Oklahoman, OCPA adjunct scholar Russell Jones, a marketing professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, used U.S. Census Bureau data to demonstrate that Oklahoma ranks 14th among the 50 states in the number of government employees as a percentage of the population. "Oklahoma governments have 18,048 more full-time equivalent employees than our population justifies," he wrote. "These employees are paid $709,018,036 per year."

Adding insult to injury, Oklahoma’s public employees earn higher average pay and benefits than the private-sector workers who are paying their salaries, according to a news report March 2 in USA Today, a newspaper which is not part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (at least they never come to the meetings). Using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, USA Today reported that average public-sector compensation (including salaries and benefits) in Oklahoma in 2009 was $47,258, which was $1,667 greater than the compensation of Oklahoma’s private-sector workers.

That's why all the recent state-budget talk of "protecting core services" misses the point. Government is too big. It needs to get smaller.

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