Commentary: Meg Whitman's bloated bureaucracy myth

A simmering debate over whether California has too many state employees, ignited by a chronic budget deficit, became more heated when Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, said she'd slash tens of thousands of state jobs through attrition and technology.

Along with other factors, her declaration propelled public employee unions to spend millions on behalf of Whitman's Democratic rival, Jerry Brown.

The unions complain that public employees are being scapegoated for the state's chronic fiscal woes and point out that California is near the bottom among the states in the ratio of state workers to population.

So what are the facts? Jon Ortiz, who covers state employee issues for The Bee, combined data from several Census Bureau reports and fed them into a spreadsheet program. The results refute Whitman's thesis of a bloated bureaucracy.

Ortiz found that the union side of the argument is correct in pointing out the state's relatively low ratio of state employees to population. The ratio of "full-time equivalent" (FTE) state workers is 11.1 per 1,000 residents, fourth lowest in the nation.

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