Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Albany’s Two Payrolls: One Is Anybody’s Guess

The New York Times reports:
As Gov. David A. Paterson calls lawmakers back to work on the budget this week, he has announced that the fiscal situation is so serious that he must begin laying off state workers. But there is one wrinkle, as officials try to pare government spending: No one knows for sure how big the state work force actually is.

That is because the state has not one but two public payrolls.

One is controlled by the governor, encompassing about 131,000 employees, who toil for agencies like the Health Department, the parks department and the Department of Motor Vehicles. That payroll has shrunk by about 25 percent in the last two decades — so has the much smaller legislative payroll — and usually shoulders the brunt of layoffs.

The other lies beyond the direct control of the governor and includes perhaps 163,000 more workers employed by independent public authorities and agencies — though that number is an estimate, because not all authorities have been reporting their payrolls to a central state registry. And projections of state employment by the federal government do not always match the state government’s figures. The work force beyond the governor’s control has largely bucked the statewide retrenchment, according to a review compiled by The New York Times.

That is particularly true of some of the largest public employers. The State University of New York has grown by 14 percent over the last two decades, while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which serves a dozen counties, has seen its work force rise by about 5 percent. The state judiciary has increased by 31.6 over that period.
This is not a small matter. It's impossible to have accountability when so many government workers are taken outside politics. Here is a major legacy of the progressive movement. Government is expanded by off budget financing with little executive branch or legislative control.