Our View: Fewer state workers, but well-paid
California has the highest-paid state employees among the 50 states, but close to the lowest number of state employees per capita.
The numbers come from a new analysis by Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, an independent think tank based in Palo Alto. The analysis used 2011 data from the US Census Bureau.
The average salary for California state employees was $70,777. That was ahead of salaries in four liberal Northeastern states: New Jersey, $69,302; Connecticut, $67,828; New York, $67,250; and Rhode Island, $63,678. It's also nearly 40 percent higher than salaries in our Western competitor Texas, at $51,449.
Those numbers were just for state employees. When state and local employees are combined, California still is tops with $67,524 average salaries, compared to $65,188 for No. 2 New Jersey, and just $45,022 for Texas.
That is worth keeping in mind when Gov. Jerry Brown and others insist we need to raise taxes, via Propositions 30 and 38, to avoid deeper cuts in state services and classroom teaching.
When ranking states based on ratio of state employees to population, California in 2011 ranked fifth-lowest, at 467 per 10,000 residents. Nevada was lowest, at 420 per 10,000, followed by Arizona, 433; Mississippi, 462; and Pennsylvania, 465.
"A lot of government workers prefer it this way," Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton said. "But I would rather have more and pay them less."
However, Norby, a former public school teacher, cautioned that, in some areas, such as teaching, the best mix seems to be higher-paid, excellent teachers teaching large classes.
The problem, alas, is that teacher tenure and other rules promote compensation based more on longevity than teacher effectiveness. Norby also noted that, in public education in California, "more than half the money is going to teacher salaries." The rest is going to administration.
The result is shown in state test scores, in which California students routinely finish near the bottom of the states.
The University of California and California State University systems now employ more administrators than professors.
The administrators commonly make more, on average, than the professors.
University professors "also have a lower teaching load than 20 years ago," Norby said. "The universities are administratively top-heavy. They have to spend a lot on mandatory programs. Mandatory K-12 programs also add to costs. Look at whom they are serving: The people or the mandates?"
The mandates have come from federal programs with strings attached to the funding. But they also have come from state mandates written by the Legislature that have bulked up the California Education Code to 12 volumes.
As the past 20 years have shown, the bureaucracy and public-employee unions make reforms all but impossible. But at least when they come asking for more tax money, we can point out that they already make more than any other state employees in the nation.