California state payrolls are up for 2011 despite massive layoffs and budget cuts. According to data from the Comptroller’s office many state workers got their first full paycheck in years as the state shifted away from forced furloughs and into new cost savings measures like hiring freezes.
Payrolls may have increased further had it not been for the significant number of layoffs of government workers. The continued layoffs are notable, California has been cutting positions for years and moving others to part-time only. As CivSource reported previously, the state has already laid off tens of thousands of people.
State payroll accounts for about $18 billion of the overall budget, a figure which successive governors have been trying to keep in check for decades. Forced furloughs were the most recent way Governors tried to save money. However, as state budget observers have noted recently, furloughs are only a temporary and largely ineffective budget solution.
According to McClatchy, the largest increases came at the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Motor Vehicles with state workers in those offices clearing salaries well above $500k.
Payroll increases are a double edge sword for states simultaneously looking for ways to cut the budget while fostering economic growth. The McClatchy account noted that the increases contributed, “$140 million in wages to the Sacramento economy in 2011, contributing to a budding recovery. Previous forced furloughs dampened much of the city’s economic activity. Despite this, state workers are being thrust into the limelight over high salaries during tough economic times. Public workers salaries are often the subject of criticism from those that dislike the idea of government jobs.