California's Decade of Ridiculously Growing State Employee Costs

Watch the fiscal disaster unfold.


When do they start flying it upside-down?

California increased its number of state employees by 9.3 percent over the past ten years. That tracks with census data. But the payroll costs of its employees jumped 42.4 percent. The Sacramento Bee has the details to make you want to smack something into something else in response:

In 2001, the state had the "full-time equivalent" of 372,678 employees and was paying them $1.7 billion a month. By 2011, the FTE's, as they are dubbed, had increased to 407,321 and payroll costs to $2.4 billion.

Over the 10-year span, which included two major recessions separated by a brief period of economic expansion during the housing boom, FTE's in higher education, the largest single component of the state workforce, increased by 23 percent from 128,665 to 158,229, and prison payrolls, the second largest, jumped by a nearly identical amount—from 48,896 to 60,007. Offsetting declines occurred in transportation agencies and state hospitals.

State employment in 2011 was also slightly lower than in 2010, but the decline was less than the 1.4 percent nationwide drop in state payrolls. Year-to-year declines in other states ranged as high as 7 percent in Arizona while a few states recorded employment increases, topped by 13.3 percent in Arkansas.

Keep in mind California's prison population has been dropping since halfway through the decade (partly forced by the state's Supreme Court to ease overcrowding).