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Genuine control over LA staffing entails changing policy

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and Louisiana state legislative leaders have said they intend to look closely at the matter of state staffing levels as a means of controlling spending, making changes if necessary to facilitate administrative ability to affect the size of the state’s workforce. Understanding who is responsible for what is necessary even to begin to make the system more controllable.

In the broadest sense, if every single person that gets compensated in some way for some work on behalf of the state that is not a contractor is counted, the December, 2008 number would be over 105,000. Removing workers in the legislative and judicial branches, leaving only those drawing non-contractor compensation from the executive branch, produces a figure of 103,875. (Henceforth, “state employees” will be defined identically to “state executive branch employees.)

But this is not the figure of full-time employees in the state, because it contains employees such as part-timers, student workers, and those who receive only per diem compensation and the like such as those who serve on state boards and commissions. Remove those and combine the part-timers into full-time equivalents and they bring the figure reported by the government agency concerned with state employment, the Department of State Civil Service (the only cabinet department over whom the governor has no direct control that does not elect its members statewide) at the end of the last fiscal year (June 30, 2008) to 93,099 full-time equivalent employees.

However, this figure masks further delineations within it. One is that only 61,411 are in the state’s classified service, which gives greater controls over their hirings (and great protections to prevent firings) than the others that comprise the unclassified service. For example, college faculty are unclassified and decisions about the creation or abolishment of these positions are out of the hands of top budget planners.

Another is that state discretionary money is used for only a portion of these positions. This is why when checking the fiscal year 2008-09 budget documents, only 45,879 are listed as being paid from its general fund. And even this isn’t the actual number because it does not count higher education employees save those that work for one of the state’s four management boards and Board of Regents.

Note a final distinction as well with this figure: the general fund lists not employees, but positions, and with hundreds vacant at any given time the actual figure employed being paid for by state discretionary dollars (that is, not where some kind of revenue dedication over which policy-makers don’t control is forced into paying for filled positions) will be a little below that figure.

Thus, the starting point for figuring out who controls what begins with the governor and Legislature, who through budgetary maneuvers directly can affect the fate of roughly 45,000 current employees. After that, it gets much trickier.

Concerning the unclassified folks, budgetary control is diluted because the institutions make their own decisions about positions and people: the only way the governor and Legislature can shape this is by manipulating the bulk appropriation it makes to each institution. And a large number of state employees come from federal dollars to support various activities such as health, welfare, and education. They come courtesy of grants or matching funds, so it is not entirely the state’s choice. That is, if it wishes to accept funds from the federal government to perform a legal obligation (or mandate from the federal government), it must hire personnel to do it.

Finally, for comparative perspective, the number of FTE employees over the past several years actually has declined by a few hundred since 2004 and those tied to the general fund discretionary spending have declined by about a thousand from the fiscal year 2004-05 budget (these the last figures before the big drop and since then rise from the hurricane disasters of 2005). Relative to the rest of the nation, Louisiana is somewhat overstaffed, ranking just in the top third of states in per capita FTE staffing at 17.45 per thousand (but given health care reforms proposed by Jindal that would distance the state from direct provision of it, given that about a third of state workers are involved in health care these changes could drop Louisiana to about the national average).

So these considerations mean that, in trying to understand how to bring personnel spending under control in Louisiana:

  • Comparisons of the total numbers of all people drawing some remuneration for non-contractor work present a distorted picture in trying to gauge the actual direct control elected policy-makers have over the size of state government in terms of employment; more accurate would be using the FTE and most accurate the budgeted positions numbers, but none give an entirely accurate number of directly controlled positions by policy-makers
  • Greater control by elected policy-makers can be gained if statutes are changed to (1) give them increased control over decisions made in higher education, (2) reduce the size of the state-run health care sector, and (3) removing dedications of state revenues
  • Recent trends suggest a small downward movement in overall state employment (as well as in FTE per capita) even as the latest figures have increased due to state government (especially in the health care area) recovering from the hurricane disasters

    In the latest reporting period (7/1/2007 to 6/30/2008, under half of which time the present Jindal Administration and Legislature controlled), the FTE numbers have increased about 3,000 (almost two-thirds of that an increase in unclassified employees) and apparently much of that due to bringing the state’s health care system back close to its pre-disaster level and fully funding higher education to its recommended level for the first time in a quarter century. Outside of higher education, it largely seems to have involved federal dollars since the budget for general fund positions intended to lop off 1,316 unadjusted for higher education (note: budgeted numbers will be slightly different from what actually happens since the Legislature makes changes to the budget before its passage).

    Thus, the most valid statement regarding recent changes in state personnel levels is that Jindal and the Legislature have achieved a small reduction in the state workforce over which they have the most control. The areas over which they have less control grew more substantially, and there will have to be statutory, perhaps even constitutional changes for them to achieve the same degree of authority over those areas.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...


    It's not about the number of state employees. It's about the cost to the taxpayers for personnel hired by the state.

    The payroll has gone up by hundreds of millions of dollars since Jindal took office. That's all that matters.

    You don't have to defend everything Jindal does just because you work for the state.

    You were better when you were objective rather than trying to defend the indefensible.