Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In the first week of the special session, we held several hearings on the governor's budget proposal in the House Ways and Means Committee. Many have said it does not adequately prioritize, and I agree. My budget priorities include: levy equalization, public safety, rural health care and the most vulnerable people in our communities. These things should be funded first in the budget, not last and dependent on a tax increase.
This is just the beginning of discussions on how to address the budget, so I want to hear from you. This week, my seatmate, Rep. David Taylor, and I will be hosting a telephone town hall. On Thursday, Dec. 8 from 6:35 to 7:35 p.m. you will have the opportunity to ask us questions directly, take part in a live poll, and listen to questions your neighbors in the 15th District are asking. The information to join the call is to the left. I know many people are concerned about how the budget and tax increase proposals could affect them, so I look forward to talking with you.
Last week, the Department of Labor and Industries reversed their recommendation that workers' compensation tax rates be increased, which is a very good thing for employers. The agency decided against a 2.5 percent increase after receiving overwhelming public testimony against the increase.
Administration and bureaucracy of state government
In my last e-mail, I sent you some information on the historical trends of the state budget and our current budget shortfall. This week, I want to provide some information about the size and scope of government, because I believe we can and should reduce the footprint of government in your life.
This chart shows the total state payroll costs – what it costs you as a taxpayer to pay the salaries and benefits of state employees.
The top line shows an increase in the total costs to the state, while the bottom line shows a leveling out of costs from the general fund. Part of the reason for the increase in the top line is that health care costs have increased, which are counted as benefits. Another factor is that the average salary for a full-time state employee has steadily increased, and part of this may be due to the fact that lower-rank employees have experienced more layoffs than middle or upper management.
This chart compares private sector payroll costs with public sector payroll costs.
As you can see, the gap between the two has nearly tripled in just 10 years. The private sector adapted to the recession, while state compensation increased dramatically.
I want to make clear that I support the work of public servants who provide critical services to the public. My concern is the number of management positions existing in state government, while services to constituents are reduced or eliminated.
I want to hear what you think about this information, and I hope you will join us for the phone call on Thursday. It's an honor to serve you.