Monday, February 16, 2009

Louisiana's growing state payroll strains budget

As budget shortfalls and tough economic times strain the state's finances, the reality of a recent expansion in state jobs and salaries is sinking in for decision-makers trying to make ends meet in the public treasury.

The state has about 105,000 people on its payroll, with base salaries totaling $4.6 billion annually, the highest level in its history. Add retirement and benefit expenses and state supplements for teachers and other local public workers, and the state's overall annual obligation for personnel comes close to $8 billion. That is more than four-fifths of what the state general fund will get in taxes and other direct revenue this year.

The largest job gains were at higher incomes. While the number of state workers earning less than $40,000 per year declined last year, the number who make more than $40,000 grew by 4,334 jobs.

That does not necessarily mean that Louisiana's state workers are unusually overcompensated. The rank and file state salaries and group benefits in Louisiana are about average on a national scale, according to data from the Council of State Governments' Book of the States.

Some lawmakers and administration officials are considering changes to the state civil service system that could be introduced in the spring lawmaking session, ranging from seniority and job protection provisions to a new approval process for fresh hires.

No comments: