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“Right-Sizing” Maine’s state workforce could save over $185M

The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) has released a report touting nearly $200 million in savings that Maine taxpayers could realize if the state government workforce was reduced to the national average.

The report, “Right-Sizing Maine’s State Government Workforce,” was authored by MHPC chief economist Scott Moody. He states that in 2009, Maine’s employment ratio—the number of state government employees (including employment at Maine’s public colleges) for every 100 people employed in Maine’s private sector—was 5.51. That ranks Maine in the top half (rank 21) of all states’ employment ratio.

The report also explains that Maine’s 5.51 employment ratio is 16 percent higher than the national average of 4.74 state government employees for every 100 private sector workers.

Right-sizing Maine’s state government workforce to the national average would achieve a reduction of 3,880 taxpayer-funded state government positions—that would create an annual savings for Maine taxpayers of more than $185.6 million.

To compare, Governor Paul LePage’s recent budget proposal calls for the elimination of just 81 state government positions—69 of which are currently unfilled—to achieve a modest savings of approximately $4.4 annually. That’s just 2.4 percent of what could be achieved if the budget called for a right-sizing of the state workforce to the national average.

“Other states are able to manage just fine with a state workforce more in line with the national average,” Moody said.  “Right-sizing our workforce would achieve significant taxpayer savings every year, alleviating the pain caused by budget cuts to state services and creating opportunities for real and significant tax relief.”

According to the report, in 2009 Maine’s state government employed 27,656 full- and part-time workers. That’s 4.7 percent of the total state labor force—a 31 percent jump since 1979, when the state employed just 21,069 workers.

Regionally, Maine’s 5.51 employment ratio rank is higher than every other New England state except Vermont, which has an employment ratio of 6.45.

Massachusetts boasts the lowest employment ratio in the region, with an employment ratio of just 4.38 state government workers for every 100 people working in the private sector.

“I hope this report will receive careful consideration by policymakers in Augusta,” Moody said. “At a time when all options to bring our fiscal house in order must be on the table, streamlining the state workforce to the national average is a reasonable proposal that achieves significant results. Nearly $200 million in savings annually would go a long way toward bringing Maine’s budget to long-term solvency.”

To see the report, go to The Maine Heritage Policy Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization based in Portland.

One Response to ““Right-Sizing” Maine’s state workforce could save over $185M”

  • Steve Mortimer:

    Reducing the size of Main’es state government to the national average seems like a reasonable goal. Before I jump on the bandwagon, however, I have a few questions.

    1. In terms of MHPC’s projected savings, is this NET of the cost of unemployment, such as health coverage, food stamps, lost tax revenues, etc. for those downsized? One would hope that these folks will eventually find other jobs, but until they do… what does MHPC calculate the termination cost to be?

    2. Is Maine’s “employment ratio” of 5.51 higher than the national average because we have a higher percentage of part-time vs. full-time state employees? It would be helpful to have an apples-to-apples comparison.

    3. Is there a rational reason for Maine to have a higher ratio of state employees? For example, we undoubtedly have a lot of people plowing snow, repairing potholes, etc. which warmer states would not have. Again, apples-to-apples?

    4. Does Maine use more employees vs. consultants and independent companies? Does Mass., for example, outsource work that Maine does with state employees? Apples…

    “Right-sizing” and “bloated state government” are politically popular sound bites, but Maine taxpayers would be well-advised to check the facts before jumping on any bandwagons. Might be a case of pay me now vs. pay me later.

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