Maine Heritage Policy Center's report on state government workforce didn't adjust for size difference

If anyone thought the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Gov. Paul LePage were joined at the hip, there was definitive proof Wednesday that they are not.

In its latest report, "Right-sizing Maine's State Government Workforce," the conservative think tank chided the governor for not eliminating enough state workers to put Maine on the "path to prosperity."

Indeed, the governor's proposed budget only seeks to eliminate 81 positions and, as the MHPC points out, "only 12 will involve layoffs." That's out of a total state workforce in 2009 of 27,656.

To be fair, LePage has been in office only two months and has yet to fully embark on his promise to restructure state government.

The Policy Center's report argues that if Maine "right-sized" its state workforce, it could eliminate 3,880 employees, saving $185,635,011.

Now that's some serious savings. But how did the MHPC arrive at this number?

It was calculated by dividing the number of state government employees by private employees in the state. In 2009, state government employed 5.51 people for every 100 people employed in the private sector.

Compared to other states, Maine has the 21st highest ratio of state to private workers. Maine could save the $185.6 million by reducing its workforce ratio to the national average.

At first blush, this seems a curious calculation. Wouldn't it be better to divide the total number of residents by the total number of state employees?

After all, state government cannot simply choose to not serve old folks and children.

Be that as it may, there is an even more interesting curiosity buried in the MHPC numbers, the apparent correlation between the size of a state and its ratio of state-to-private employees.

A glance at the Sun Journal chart accompanying this editorial shows the problem.

The largest states seem to have the most favorable ratios of state employees. The average ratio for the five largest states in the U.S. is 3.59 per 100, while the average for the five smallest states is 7.38.

Why? We're guessing it has something to do with economies of scale. For instance, The Ohio State University has 56,064 students at its one campus in Columbus. The University of Maine System has about 32,000 students spread over eight campuses, including the law school.

One campus serving 56,000 students or eight serving 32,000. Which do you suppose would be more cost-effective?

The economies of scale apply to just about every governmental function, from purchasing to information technology.

When compared to states with similarly sized populations, Maine appears about average (if you throw out Hawaii), 5.51 per 100 here compared to an average of 5.70.

We are 100 percent in favor of having the most efficient, productive state workforce in the country, and we hope our new governor can achieve that over time.

But the recent MHPC report uses an apples-to-oranges comparison and may set unrealistic expectations.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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 's picture

But over all, for once, Maine

But over all, for once, Maine Heritage was right. LePage campaigned on the claim that he would drastically cut the state budget. One big way is to eliminate jobs, especially those jobs that overlap in function, or just sit around and do nothing.
With his 81 positions eliminated he is taking credit for what Baldacci did when he ordered a freeze on hiring, and 69 of those 81 jobs were left open.
So our esteemed leader LePage has ordered a grand total of 12 employees cut?? That's it?? That's a drop in the bucket, and I've heard about some of those 12 employees, he is cutting the people doing the actual work, while leaving the bloated management level in ALL state departments alone. That's where the fat is in the state, it comes from rewarding long time employees with promotions to new levels of management, and in the past before Baldacci came to office those departments just added those levels and replaced the workers.
LePage will only attack at the bottom, at the level of employees that have little if any voice in the state. Until those extra do nothing managers are cut, LePage's campaign promise will remain, a lie. Don't sit and compare, we are unique, just do it right!

Jack Tetreault's picture

Taxes and Size

Whatever the ratios on numbers of Gov't employees to privet sector employees the state of Maine cannot afford what is being spent. We have run out of other people's money. Bottom line is what counts here. If you cannot pay you cannot get. "But I want it" doesn't mean you can have it. Gov. LePage was elected to clean up our act as were Governors in many other states. Time to stop whining and get to work. If we are not happy with the results than the next election will cause a change. As POTUS said recently, "I won the election and we do it my way." If we don't like it than vote him out of office in 2012.

What the...

We have a nice informative article on the ratio of state employees to private sector employees and the response is some barely readable rant about who's married to who, a response on some irrelevant email sent to state employees that even the article that was linked to the post said no laws were broken, and at least one respectable response. It lost a little bit at the end where you just couldn't resist the Iraq jab. We're still there aren't we? I'll agree with you though, the political word twisting to fit an agenda is frustrating. Tax's, even at 48th in the world, can still be a burden. No body likes paying them and they higher they go, the more they stifle an economy. Please, nobody try any tricky misleading line graphs about how when taxes go up or down, the national debt goes up or down. Unfortunately, we've spent/borrowed so much, raising taxes is the only way to get out of this, so long as we cut spending at the same time. I'll draw a comparison to the military for ya Ronnie just for you. Firing without maneuvering is a waste of bullets. Maneuvering without firing is suicide.

RONALD RIML's picture

Too bad your post neglected to say anything

about "Voodoo Math" Zach. Because that's what comparing the public to the public sector is. Just like comparing the private sector to the military.

Article say Tarren Bragdon's coduct wasn't illegal? So did my post. Try caring about ethics.

Know what else stifles an economy? Debt. And lacking the political will to tax those best able to reduce it.

RONALD RIML's picture

I meant "Public to the Private Sector"

Mt Bad.....

RONALD RIML's picture

Reckon you didn't catch the PPH's report, Rex......

"Not joined at the Hip?"

Like spouses don't chide one another to inspire a little more activity around the house... ("Get off the computer, Ron - and do some work!!")

Check out the Portland Press Herald's article today about how one of Da Guv's transition team worker's - Tarren Bragdon - CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center - gathered up a number of state workers' e-mail addresses and sent out 'Fund Raising' e-mails on behalf of the MHPC to the State Workers last February 5th.


Now Tarren claims he wasn't violating any laws because he wasn't a 'State Employee' when he was on the transition Team. Whadda 'Rat!!!' So he's a sneak and a putz.

And Rex - you might not think they're joined at the hip - but I can think of other anatomical parts they're joined at - but if I mentioned those Pattie would ixnay my ostpay.


Statistics can be twisted to prove up is down

All the statistician has to do is ignore an inconvenient factor to skew everything to a preconceived outcome. Thus was born the myth that Maine's tax burden was #1 in the nation. Angus King, the last governor Maine had, finally punctured that balloon and Maine fell to #16 - not terrible considering the geographical size of the state and our relatively small population.

Another of the great myths is the terrible burden taxes place on Americans. Forbes (hard to get more conservative than Forbes) places the US at #48 in the world in total tax burden - yet conservatives continue to groan under the imagined load by simply repeating what is a blatant lie - they didn't even mess with the statistical study, They just put out a talking point memo every week and the sheep repeat it.

We need real government by people who actually know how to separate what they hear at the convenience store from actual fact - inconvenient though the facts might be. Paul LePage is NOT that governor, He goes with the one liner, the bumper sticker, his gut - the last man who did that led us into Iraq and cost hundreds of thousands their lives. (Yes, Iraqis are humans too and I counted them - oh, the shock)

AL PELLETIER's picture

Aloha Steve

Wow ! Guess I'm a little slow. Please give me a week to figure out what you wrote.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Center's report didn't adjust for size differences

Thanks Rex , 11.02.24 9:15 pm HST • 
" Maine appears about average (if you throw out Hawaii :) "
" Right - sizing," " down - sizing , " " happy - sizing . " Hasn't any one e l s e ever read Dilbert ® in Maine ? Heritage is just a code word for all the neo-cons ( i . e ., Republicans in exile at in D C ) The last balanced US federal budget was under President Clinton . This current recession started under Bush - Cheney ( deny it someone ) . Hypocrisy and two faced individuals abound in the Republican party . Palin ? Newt ? Gingrich has been married three times . In the mid-1990s, Gingrich began an affair with House of Representatives staffer Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior; they continued their affair during the Lewinsky scandal . Is this the best they can do ?
Ronald Reagan oversaw the largest U S Federal Govt. build up in U S history ( he really did , in absolute numbers of new employees ) . He had children who didn't follow his particular family values . Wasn't Nancy his second wifey , too , after Jane Wyman ? Some of us tend to side more with Ron Jr. , Patti Davis and Maureen . Although reared Roman Catholic following her mother's conversion , Maureen was pro-choice on abortion . She also believed that Oliver North should have been court-martialed ( the felon ) . Patti , like her brother Ron , is known for holding liberal viewpoints , which clashed often with her famously conservative father . She openly held a pro-choice viewpoint on abortion, supported gay rights , and opposed nuclear weapons . Many of us trust Republicans about as far as we can t h r o w them
Then there are the fence sitters : ( D - CT ) Lieberman , ( R - ME ) Snowe and ( R - ME ) Collins . Choose to choose . Decide to decide already ( tautologies, i realize )
But don't go and confuse them with any more facts L S J ® 
s/, Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i


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