Downsizing PA Government

"State government has grown too big and Pennsylvania taxpayers can no longer afford it" is the central theme of the most recent position paper of the Auditor General. One way to get expenses under control, according to the Auditor General, is to offer an early retirement incentive to Commonwealth employees. Such incentives, like buyouts, are not uncommon in the public or private sector.

Based on the experience of the Auditor General’s own office, where 50 employees (about 7 percent of the AG’s workforce) took an early retirement and led to savings of $1.5 million, the paper extrapolates that with 77k employees under the Governor’s jurisdiction making $70k a year on average. If the identical 7 percent took buyouts (5,400 employees) then the state could save an estimated $381 million by the second year if those positions were not filled. A spokesperson from the Governor’s office countered that such an action "would force new hires to fill the positions of retirees" meaning that Pennsylvania would retain the level of state government employment it has instead of reducing it and those new employees would start accumulating benefits from day one.

How does PA compare on state government employment? A quick look at two pieces of Census data-full time equivalent employees at the state level and 2009 estimated state population-shows that Pennsylvania has 130 employees per 10k people (the full time equivalent count was much higher than the employee count of the AG which looked at those under the control of the Governor). By comparison, New York had 131, Ohio 124, and Illinois 108. Faster growing states like Texas and Florida had lower counts, 121 and 100 respectively. Getting PA to a 100 employee per 10k population count would require attrition of 37k employees and not filling those positions when they became vacant. Certainly there is some room for improvement for Pennsylvania when it comes to the level of state employment.