General Assembly Budget Gradually Undoes State Workforce Cuts

One little-noted aspect of the budget that passed both chambers of the General Assembly this month was the increase in full-time equivalents (FTEs) that it authorized.

During his second term, Governor Donald Carcieri made national news with his vow to trim the state workforce by 1,000.  With a heavy reliance on attrition (that is, eliminating positions when employees retired or otherwise moved on), the number of authorized FTEs decreased from 16,417 in 2006 to 14,341 in 2010.  Since the election of Governor Lincoln Chafee, approximately one-third of that reduction has been reversed.

However, the state’s economic malaise has continued to suppress private-sector employment.  As a result, taking the annual average employment for the years provided on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Web site, the number of FTEs per 100 employed Rhode Islanders has effectively returned to where it was before the reduction.

In the following chart, the line shows authorized FTEs (with the scale on the left axis), and the columns show the ratio to statewide employment (with the scale on the right axis).

Rhode Island State Government Authorized Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs), 1998 to 2013


An interesting example of state workforce growth in action is available in article 4 of the budget.  Sections 4 through 7 take the seemingly neutral step of changing the Office of Economic Recovery to a new Office of Management and Budget.  What that change actually accomplished, however, was to make permanent an office created for the temporary purpose of processing federal stimulus payments to the state.  At the same time, the number of employees dedicated to the office is expected to increase from seven to 11.

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