At least six cash-strapped states, including Louisiana, have decided this year to spend millions on incentives to encourage government employees to retire.
As the job security traditionally associated with state employment becomes increasingly uncertain in the face of large-scale layoffs and furloughs, these buyouts give states the chance to tighten their belts without fracturing morale.
While frequently used during recessions, incentive packages to shrink state payrolls have a history of not always delivering their projected cost savings. If states too quickly refill the jobs opened up by the buyouts, they have to absorb the costs of the incentives while still paying salaries to new workers.
A separate concern is that buyouts can lead to a brain drain if too many experienced employees accept.
Apart from Louisiana, other states offering buyouts this year include Connecticut, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont.