September 13, 2007

Are There Really Too Many State Employees in Rhode Island?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Providence Phoenix's Ian Donnis has found at least one reputable source saying that the number of state employees in Rhode Island is towards the lower end of the regional and national scales…

When viewed in proportion to our population, the number of state workers in Rhode Island is the smallest among the six New England states and just the 40th-largest in the country, according to US Bureau of Labor statistics used in an analysis compiled by Governing magazine.

In contrast to regional leader Vermont, which has 301 state employees per 10,000 residents, the magazine’s sourcebook found, Rhode Island has 164 state workers per 10,000 residents. The comparable numbers for the other states: Maine (221); Connecticut (196); New Hampshire (188); and Massachusetts (187)....

The number of authorized full-time equivalents in state government (which could be greater than the number of actual employees) is 15,987 for the current fiscal year, compared with 15,796 10 years ago, according to RIPEC’s Gary Sasse. The count of FTEs had been as high as 17,715 in 1992, he says, and as low as 16,910 in fiscal 2004.

Rather than the sheer number of workers, Sasse says, “the problem in Rhode Island is that we have high costs per employee.” He puts the typical cost of salary and benefits for a state employee in the area of $90,000, noting that the state’s total for this stuff has climbed over the last year by about 7.5 percent.

The complete list compiled by Governing is available here. All of kinds of other numbers of potential interest are available here.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Or, you could have read the same information on August 20th, here on AR:

"Mike - Well, I am not a Marxist (unless Groucho counts) but I assume you know by now that the "New Hampshire" miracle is really the New Hampshire mirage. NH, in fact, has 24,700 state employees in total (source: Governing Magazine, which lists RI at 17,500). More importantly, NH has 188 state government employees per 10,000 population (31st nationally) versus RI at 164 per 10,000 population (40th nationally).

We do have more poverty in Rhode Island, and deal with it charitably, which matches the values of the majority of folks in our state. We also have a higher cost of living, and our public sector compensation is generally in line with MA and below CT (which is our market).

And by the way, a lot of the pension math floating around is just plain wrong as well - there would be no savings in a conversion to a 401-k type system, which is why West Virginia switched back after making the change.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 20, 2007 3:23 PM

Posted by: Bob Walsh at September 13, 2007 11:20 AM

Somebody go find Pelosi at the bar and ask him if we have too many state employees.

Posted by: Greg at September 13, 2007 12:08 PM

As the spouse of a state employee and who's family and circle of friends includes MANY state employees ... 1,000 jobs should just be a start. I would say in the order of 10% would be a more sensable way to go.

It's a joke to many of them as to what they get away with and what they get compensated for. It's a feeling more of a "right" to bilk the public as opposed to what they should be doing to better this state and heaven help you if you're an "outsider" and you should question this "right" they think they deserve. This "right" always comes down to "we're union people" and they honestly feel they deserve everything they have regardless of what the real world economic situation is.

Don't get me wrong, they are all, for the most part, good meaning people but their duties in 98% of private sector employment would be considered part time jobs for what they do with much less lucrative, and rightly so, benefit packages.

If the unions want sympathy, let them do the right thing and step back a little in tough economic times. Take a few hits like private company employees do during tough times. Get over that "we're better than the tax payes" attitude.

And to people like Bob Walsh and Pat Crowley and other union hacks, if you think I'm wrong than you either deny reality or you are completely out of touch with the folks you are supposed to be serving.

Posted by: Jake at September 13, 2007 1:09 PM

"Take a few hits like private company employees do during tough times."

Will we get bonuses when times are good?

Posted by: michael at September 13, 2007 1:59 PM


Enlighten me further, since you think I am out of touch or in denial. Who? What jobs? Where is your data? How do you know? Are you including your wife and friends in the mix? And what is your basis for comparison? Share with us what you do for a living, your compensation, and why you deserve to be paid at that level. Or are you just blowing smoke, or a little bit jealous?

Posted by: Bob Walsh at September 13, 2007 2:04 PM

Since when do union hacks ever step into reality? They make a living denying that it exists.

I had an intersing converstion with a RI state employee a couple of weeks ago. Apparantly in his particular department NOBODY works anywhere near a full day. Many have 2-3 hours of work to do, the rest have a half day. Their supervisor was encouraging most of the department to leave early, between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., since there was nothing for them to do. Then when the Journal ran the stories about the number of state employees and the overtime pay, the workers panicked and refused to leave early any longer. Now they hang around the worksite all afternoon with nothing to do. I don't believe that these people are necessarily lazy, this seems more like poor management and/or organizational control. And something tells me that the rigidity of union contracts may be playing a part.

Posted by: Frank at September 13, 2007 2:29 PM

"Will we get bonuses when times are good?"

Here at my non-union company we're getting some of the biggest quarterly bonuses in YEARS because we're doing so well. So, yes.

Posted by: Greg at September 13, 2007 2:38 PM

I hate to burst this obviously left wing/union bubble, but this study is based on greatly flawed data, as can be seen from this info they used:

For the record, NH has 1,314,895 residents.

NH has 10,583 state employees.

RI has 1,067,610 residents and 15,987 state employees.

On an absolute basis or a relative basis, no matter how you want to look at it, NH has FAR FEWER state employees than RI.

This study is an absolute JOKE!

Posted by: Jim at September 13, 2007 2:40 PM


I can't speak for Jake. However, as a small business owner, I have a 100% health/dental co-pay and my 401k contributions are all my own. Am I a little jealous? No, because I think that you have gotten your membership a deal that is unsustainable and therefore it won't be sustained. (Don't believe that? Lets see how things unfold between the UAW and the Big 2 1/2.) Unlike your members, and even more so the taxpaying public, I know what I have and what my costs are.

Incidentally, while you are right that a 403b (not a 401k, I think) will not save money retroactively, it will, going forward, put a stop to the shenanigans engaged in by state, municipalities and unions whose pay as you go funding creates a financial iceberg - most of the problem is hidden. 403b monies contributed are locked and can't be pooched for current expenses. Therefore, the taxpayer finally gets the real bill and can act/vote accordingly.

Posted by: chuckR at September 13, 2007 2:43 PM

Greg, believe it or not, I am very happy for you and your quarterly bonus. That is the way is should be when things are going well in the private sector. I don’t begrudge you or anybody else their success. I have a friend who owns three daycare centers. They pay their help next to minimum wage with no benefits. They lease two luxury cars every year and write them off as business expenses. I have another friend who owns a restaurant. He can’t decide whether to buy a custom chopper or new Harley to put into the garage of his second home. His help? They can “buy” into a retirement plan and pay group rates for healthcare if they want. Another guy I know owns a plating business. I used to clean his mansion for sixty bucks. They pay their help peanuts and don’t offer benefits.

I have a theory. People like you and me and Justin and the rest make somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 give or take. We work hard for our money and fight among ourselves about the fairness of our benefits while poor folks with earned income credits and rich folks with loopholes galore care less about public pensions, healthcare or the plight of middle class America.

Enjoy your bonus, I’m enjoying my benefits

Posted by: michael at September 13, 2007 3:01 PM


Why are these people your friends?

Posted by: chuckR at September 13, 2007 3:32 PM


My point is, that if the Jake's and the Frank's of this blog are aware of abuses, then do something about it. The union will ensure that the accused employee gets a fair hearing, but the concept that we encourage anyone to abuse the system is nonsense. We admittedly and willingly defend our members when they are accused, but an honest day's work for an honest day's pay is a fairly simple standard to live by, and one that we can easily support and defend as well. And if Jake is telling us that his wife does not give an honest day's work for her pay, then he is as guilty as she is of abusing the system and he should be ashamed of himself.

And, chuckR, you made a choice and more power to you for doing so - you take all of the risk and reap all of the reward for doing so, as it should be. However, public service jobs are not designed that way, and neither, by the way, are the vast majority of private sector jobs. You cite the auto example, and I put labor at the bottom of the blame list in that situation - managemetn made poor decisions about which models to produce, and they compete against countries whose governments provide everything from health care to citizens to protection for businesses. And don't blame seniority for Detroit's woes, Japanese manaufacturing seniority makes union seniority provisions pale in comparison.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at September 13, 2007 5:15 PM


"Will we get bonuses when times are good?"

When you start turning a profit, the shareholders will likely authorize a bonus for you. Until then, suck it up and enjoy your vocation.

Posted by: Warbucks at September 13, 2007 6:26 PM

..."honest day's work for an honest day's pay..."

So what were we giving Pelosi? Or the sleeping street sweepers in Cranston? Or the Crossing Guards for that matter? Or the firefighters in Johnston that threatened the reporter? Or the woman in Exeter at the Veteran's Cemetery that was only working part days? Or any of the dozens of slouches that Jim Hummel has revealed over the years?

What level of honest work are they putting in for our overly-honest pay?

Posted by: Greg at September 13, 2007 6:31 PM

Thanks, Bob! You do live in denial!

Your comments -

"an honest day's work for an honest day's pay is a fairly simple standard to live by, and one that we can easily support and defend as well."

- proves this out! (nice talking point! LOL!)

If, in fact that is your belief than you should be agreeing we need to cut a number of state employee jobs because the reason they do not put in "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay" is because most departments are over staffed and there is little to keep them busy. (remember? I have a spouse that works for the state and unless she and her friends are lying to me, which I doubt, then please show me I'm wrong. BTW, she transferred from her last state job because in her words – “it’s so f**king boring, I can’t take it anymore”)

Want real time proof? Let's talk about Pelosi! How could this guy sit in a bar, away from his place of employment and do "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay". Is he an isolated incident?

Bob, what I do for a living has nothing to do with this problem except to say that if I walked out of work and spent four days or even one day per week in a bar (or even sitting in a park) I would last about as long as it took someone to notice I was gone and where I was.

In the "real world" we have to account for what we do in the employ of our companies. If we’re taking up space then we’re not needed and let go.

You asked for data? What data? I need data to tell you that I know state and even NEARI union member employees that don’t work an honest day’s work regularly and continue to screw the taxpayer on a daily basis? Why do you need names or lists of jobs? Did I miss your comments on the Jim Hummell report about Pelosi?

If I get you the names and jobs and the “data”, are you going to get to the bottom of it? HA! You tell me you’re going to take some action against such things then I’ll be happy to help you out though I honestly trust Jim Hummell doing a better job. Bob Walsh trying to make state government employees honest!?!? HA! You haven’t in the past and I doubt your spots have changed as of late! Maybe you and Crowley can go after them. LOL!

Save yourself some time and just agree that state employee staffing is out of hand.

Posted by: Jake at September 13, 2007 6:37 PM

The only "study" you need is this.
NH-with over 1.3 million people, has a $5 billion budget.
RI-with 3000,000 FEWER people, has an over $7 billion.

NH has ZERO income tax and ZERO sales tax (broaden that "progressives"-LOL)

RI has America'd highest sales tax and 10% income tax.

Posted by: Mike at September 13, 2007 8:40 PM

Now how much stock can anyone put in a story written by Ian Donnis appearing in the Daily Providence Phoenix?

Once again I'll ask why the NEA would have a dog in this fight? Fewer state workers = more money in state budget = more money for schools = better for NEA members. Why does NEA rank and file tolerate the bizarre devotion and advocacy of their paid liars (Walsh and Ducky) for any and all union money grabs? Wake up you supposed highly educated lemmings.
Such fools!

Posted by: Tim at September 13, 2007 9:39 PM

Tim, NEARI has an interest in state employees because there are NEARI non teaching locals such as CCRI Clerical and a number of others which also include municiple workers.

Posted by: Jake at September 13, 2007 10:02 PM
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