New Data, Same Old Story: Maine Government Payrolls Continue to Grow
The newest update to MaineOpenGov.org is a big one. 13 years of Maine state government payroll, dating all the way back to 1997. As far as I can tell, it is the largest set of state payroll data available to the general public in the entire country.
The data set accounts for every employee in Maine state government’s executive and judicial branches from 1997 – 2010. It totals more than $9 billion in government employee compensation, including salaries, benefits, overtime and stipends, all online and searchable.
With so much historical context to look at, there is a great opportunity to see how Maine state government payroll has trended over the years. Our analysis of the data proved very interesting:
State Payroll Growth
The first thing we found was that overall state payroll has grown by 60% since 1997, up from $477,561,489 to $766,042,519 in 2010. If the state employees pay grew at the same rate as private sector employees pay over the same time, (52% according to the bureau of economics) the state would have saved more than $40 million in 2010 alone.
Huge Increase in Highly Paid Employees
As you can see from the chart below, there has been a huge spike in the number of state employees who are taking home more than $75,000 in total compensation. The number of high earners has jumped, up more than 1,000% in 13 years.
State Employee Benefits Growth
Digging dipper into the data, it becomes very clear what is driving the overall increase in payroll. Benefits costs have skyrocketed since 1997, doubling in just 13 years. It’s imperative that the Governor and Legislature do something to start reigning in these benefit costs.
Overtime out of Control
The data brings to light a clear and present problem with management in several state agencies. Overtime has grown at enormous rates, particularly in three departments: Corrections, Public Safety, and Transportation. Transportation is the biggest culprit, increasing from only $1 million in overtime back in 1997, to more than $6 million in 2010.
Clearly, there are some issues that need to be addressed to make government more efficient. In particular, the retiree and health benefits are increasing in cost in an unsustainable way. The Governor has proposed some modest reforms in his budget that would help bring these benefits cost in line – that would be a good start. The Legislature can discuss whether or not to pass those reforms, and the unions can march on Augusta to oppose them, but the facts don’t lie. Retiree and health benefits to state employees are too generous, and Maine can’t afford to wait around while they double in cost again.
There is a ton of information to be found in this data, and I hope folks will take the same to search through it for themselves, to see how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.