Like California governors before him facing a budget crunch, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes various ways to reduce state payroll and the state work force.
That's certainly appropriate given multibillion dollar annual deficits. But it is time to get beyond one-time crisis solutions and actually debate: What is the right size for the state work force, what core functions should the state protect (and even enhance) and what obsolete functions should the state jettison?
It is not just ongoing budget shortfalls that demand such a discussion. The reality is that 70,000 out of 359,000 state workers will be eligible to retire in the next five years, according to the State Personnel Board. California needs to be smart about the positions it keeps and eliminates. Serving up bromides about indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts does not serve the state well.
In this election year, we're going to be looking for candidates to state clearly what redundancies they'd eliminate, what programs they'd consolidate, what functions they'd pare back, what services they'd maintain and what priorities they'd expand.
As this debate proceeds, it is first worth noting that the size of California's state work force is not excessive compared to those in other states. California consistently ranks in the bottom 10 states in the number of state workers per 1,000 population.
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