The Biggest Reason Why California Is Bankrupt

The Sacramento Bee unearths a stunning fact about the growth in spending on state workers.

bear flag full.png

After crunching some census data, Dan Walters of The Sacramento Bee reports a remarkable figure. In the decade that ended in 2011, California's state government employed roughly 9.3 percent more people, a number that roughly tracks the increase in population seen in the Golden State.

You'd think that payroll costs would've increased by roughly the same amount.

Nope.

Says the newspaper:

California's state government had 9.3 percent more employees in 2011 than it did 10 years earlier - closely tracking overall population growth - but its payroll costs had jumped by 42.4 percent, according to a new Census Bureau report.
Needless to say, California residents are not earning 42.4 percent more than they were just prior to 9/11.

The details:

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 million 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.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/08/state-payroll-up-93-percent-costs-424-percent-in-last-decade.html#storylink=cpy
Says Scott Shackford at Reason, adding context that makes these numbers even more remarkable, "Keep in mind California's prison population has been dropping since halfway through the decade."
Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Business

Just In