OVER THE PAST 12 months, California has lost 759,000 private industry jobs — a 6.0 percent decline. Local governments lost 27,600 jobs, a drop of 1.5 percent over the same period. But it's a different story at the state level, where there has been an increase of 3.600 workers.
While some state services have increasing needs during a recession, one has to wonder how the state can justify increasing the size of its overall workforce in the face of a severe and unsolved budget crisis.
Economist Brian Wesbury with First Trust Advisors said it is amazing that California can hire more people with all of its budget problems. He added. "Every dollar the government spends is a dollar the private sector can't spend. The government must borrow or tax to get the money."
As California's budget deficit grew, the state actually increased the pace of its labor force expansion. Hiring accelerated in 2009 compared with 2008.
That is unconscionable, particularly when the state has raided local government sales tax and property tax revenues, including huge sums of redevelopment money.
Certainly local governments have social service obligations during a recession. But the state does not seem to consider the plight of cities and counties in difficult economic times.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said that local governments must share the pain with Sacramento. Why? Most local governments have done a far better job balancing their books in tough economic times.
Even without state raids on local funds, there have been decreases in sales and property tax revenues. Yet many cities and counties have taken the necessary action with lean contracts and layoffs to maintain basic operations without running up a deficit.
The fact is local governments have shared in the pain. They never should have been raided by the state, which could have fully restored the motor vehicle tax to replace funds taken to make California's budget appear to be balanced.
State workers have been hit with furloughs, but there have not been any job reductions, even in the Department of Corrections, where more than 2,000 layoff notices have been sent out.
In fact, the state has about 1,000 openings for prison guards, according to Seth Unger, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. True, about 1,000 officers are lost through attrition. But why have openings for replacements if the department hopes to reduce its workforce by 2,000?
When the state again faces a $20 billion-plus deficit next year, will it be forced then to reduce the number of employees?
California could use attrition to make many, if not most, of its workforce reductions. Instead, it is hiring at a faster pace than a year ago.
Evidently, fiscal austerity has a far different meaning in Sacramento than it does in the private sector or among local governments. No wonder a Public Policy Institute of California poll showed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating at 28 percent and the Legislature's at 17 percent.