Positive Response to Government Employment Work

In case you missed it, the Rio Grande Foundation has been doing a great deal of work on the issue of New Mexico’s bloated government bureaucracy. This should be a prime area for cuts during the ongoing special session.

Thankfully, it seems like we have a fair amount of support for this position, at least among readers of the Albuquerque Journal. As letter writer Gary Hays wrote in support of our work:

BULL’S EYE for the Rio Grande Foundation’s revealing of what is really going on in Santa Fe regarding deficit spending.

While the Democrats are consistently blaming revenue shortfall, specifically the oil and gas industry, the real picture is an over-bloated and gluttonous government. It doesn’t take much observation to note that New Mexico’s government is tremendously over-sized for the population.

As the Rio Grande Foundation points out, the state is 51 percent above the national average of government worker for every private sector worker. What is especially troubling is that 60 percent of these government workers are employed somewhere in education in New Mexico. One would think that with the budget dollars committed to education and the vast number of employees receiving those funds, the graduation rate would be in the 80 percent range.

Reducing the government work force to the national standard in 2007 would have saved $2.7 billion, as the foundation reported. For those still thinking, that would have been a tremendous tax break for the New Mexican taxpayer.

But don’t get too excited about getting any money back. Gov. Bill Richardson isn’t about to turn his back on the government employee unions who financed his election and re-election. Besides, he is on his way out and has nothing to lose.

Have you noticed how government officials are quick to criticize and ridicule private sector management for mismanagement of a private company but turn a blind eye to their own mismanagement of taxpayer money? That kind of behavior should result in an immediate pink slip.

A second letter writer, James McClure, followed up on the theme, citing data from our recent work on the issue:

ARE GOVERNMENT workers entitled to keep their jobs while the rest of the economy is downsizing? The public employee unions want to raise our taxes rather than lay off a single government employee. Some politicians apparently agree that government workers are fireproof: Gov. Bill Richardson says he wants to avoid employee furloughs.

New Mexico’s government is bloated. A recent study showed that in 2007 (before the recession) state and local government employed 24.5 people for every 100 employed in the private sector, compared to the national average of 16.2 percent. The average state and local government job paid 9.2 percent higher than the average private sector job, more than in most other states. As private-sector employment continues to shrink, we taxpayers can no longer afford to support 60,000 state employees.

Please spare us the charade of threatening to lay off teachers. The state can make significant force cuts by doing what private companies have been doing for years: eliminating layers of management, reducing administrative and staff positions, outsourcing some services and redeploying employees where they’re most needed. The first step is a no-brainer: Immediately terminate all double-dipping employees who are drawing both a state pension and a state salary.

It’s time for Gov. Richardson to act like an executive and create a lean, efficient state government. It’s also time for legislators to remember that they represent taxpayers and not just government employees.

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