In Tough Fiscal Times Number of Government Jobs Increases in Most States

At a time when some government reform stakeholders are calling for the downsizing of the public sector workforce to help meet challenging fiscal pressures, a recent report by the Business Journals on Numbers, reveals that over the past five years the number of government jobs has increased in 30 states and in the District of Columbia.   The numbers in the report include the total federal, state and local jobs as one reported number.  The State of Texas led the list with more than 77,000 new government created over the five year time period. Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado and Maryland all have increases in the number of public sector jobs of between 20,000 and 30,000.  

Michigan and California experienced the largest loss of government jobs, 48,000 and 47,800, respectively. The largest percentage in lost public sector jobs was in Rhode Island with 8.6%.  New York lost 9,200 government jobs, which is less than 1%.

Economists and policymakers are quick to point out distinctions between downsizing and rightsizing of governments, and many continue to study and debate the impact that the loss of government jobs will have on the economy and whether the private sector will be able to pick up the public sector losses.

What the Federal Government Did Right in 2011

It’s become almost too easy these days to point out shortcomings at all levels of government, leaving most with a discouraged outlook to government functioning at the local, state, and federal levels. This is especially true this past year; no doubt most people will remember 2011 as a year marked by government dysfunction, including events like the debt ceiling standoff, the resulting U.S. credit downgrade, and the failure of the congressional “super committee” to reach a deficit reduction deal.

However with the New Year approaching it’s important to reflect on a few of the accomplishments of the federal government this year, despite the usual pessimistic predisposition to government. Ed O’Keefe, a blogger covering the Federal Government for the Washington Post, gives his opinion on a few things that Washington accomplished this year in his most recent blog post, “Some Things the Government Got Right in 2011.” O’Keefe, who still notes the overall governmental dysfunction of 2011, gives Washington credit for: federal disaster response, cutting government waste and improper payments, shrinking backlogs in information requests, and reducing the length of time it takes to get a job with the federal government.

The full post can be read here.

New York’s Mandate Relief Report and Mandate Relief Council

In January of 2011 Executive Order No. 6 created the Mandate Relief Redesign Team to explore solutions for unfunded mandates in New York.  The Mandate Relief Redesign Team issued its preliminary report in 2011 that provided recommendations to minimize and end the adverse affects that unfunded mandates place on local governments and school districts.

The Mandate Relief Redesign Team’s suggestions include prohibiting new unfunded mandates, requiring an independent cost analysis on all mandates, create a new pension tier to reduces mandate costs, reforming New York’s Wicks Law, give local governments greater flexibility to deal with current unfunded mandates, set in place full agency review of state mandates, and create a clearinghouse to continue solving the unfunded mandate problem.

The Mandate Relief Redesign Team’s Preliminary Report is available here.

The State of New York also passed legislation in 2011 aimed at reducing the amount of unfunded mandates.  The legislation adds language to the New York State Administrative Procedure Act (2011 N.Y. Session Laws ch.97 Sub. Part H §1).  The Council is designed to identify and review mandates that can be eliminated or reformed unless those mandates are federal mandates or eligibility standards, mandates that apportion the costs of activities between boards of educations and municipalities, those from the state constitution, or those that are necessary for the public health and safety of the people of New York.

There are many avenues the Council may take to review unfunded mandates.  One method allows local governments to seek the Council’s approval for an “alternative method of implementing a regulatory mandate by submitting [a petition] to the appropriate state agency…” The Council may also find that a mandate imposed on a local government is unsound, unduly burdensome, or too costly.  Then the Council may request a review of that mandate by the local government (with the appropriate agency covering all costs) which may result in the local government petitioning for a waiver, modification, or repeal of the mandate.  In addition, the Council has the power to refer a mandate to the governor for a repeal or modification.

The eleven member Council consists of the Secretary to the Governor (council chair), Counsel to the Governor, the Director of the Division of Budget, the Secretary of State, three members appointed from the governors executive chamber staff, two members appointed from the Temporary President of the Senate, and two appointed from the Speaker of the Assembly.

The legislation creating the Mandate Relief Council is available here.

New York Municipalities Plan on Complying with New Tax Cap

According to the New York State Comptroller’s Office, almost all county, town, and city governments have submitted their fiscal plans for the upcoming year, and about 80 percent of them will be staying under the state’s new property tax cap.

The new tax cap prevents local governments and school districts from levying tax increases greater than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. However, the cap also contains an override provision, which allows a municipality to override the tax cap with approval of 60 percent of the governing board (for local governments and fire districts), or 60 percent voter approval (for school districts). Currently, 19 percent of local governments plan to override the tax cap.

The tax cap, one of Governor Cuomo’s early agenda items upon taking office, has been a source of controversy among New Yorkers.

You can read the full article, reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, here.