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Voters don't often hear politicians in Florida declare "We're No. 1!" when it comes to state spending for certain programs. Usually they cite how poorly we rank. CFO Alex Sink, the Democrat running for governor, follows that pattern and puts Florida in last place on two measures on her campaign website.
"Compared to other states, Florida ranks last in the ratio of employees to residents: 118 per 10,000 compared to the national average of 216 employees per 10,000 residents. And Florida is dead last in the nation in state employee payroll expenditures per resident: $38 compared to the national average of $69 per resident."
It doesn't get any worse than last so we wanted to check: Is Florida last in the ratio of employees to residents and in state payroll expenditures per resident?
We asked Sink campaign spokeswoman Kyra Jennings for the source of both claims. Jennings sent us the State Personnel System Annual Workforce Report 2008-09 from the state's Department of Management Services.
On Page 5 of the report we found these statements:
"In 2008, state governments nationwide had an average of 216 state workers per 10,000 in population. Florida had a ratio of 118 workers per 10,000 in population. In 2008, the state government national average was $69 in payroll expenditures per state resident. Florida’s ratio was $38 in payroll expenditures per state resident."
A map on page 6 based on census data shows that Florida and Illinois were tied for the lowest number -- 118 full- and part-time workers per 10,000 in population. A map that only looked at full-time workers per 10,000 population showed Illinois the lowest at 97 followed by Florida at 103. (And you thought we only competed with Illinois for most corrupt politicians. A New York Times analysis showed Florida is ahead of Illinois by a few steps in that category when measuring convicted public officials from 1996-2007.) A map on page 8 clearly shows Florida is the lowest in payroll expenditures at $38 followed by Arizona at $40.
Lauren Engel, a spokeswoman at the Florida Department of Management Services, said that is the department's most recent published report. So that's a relatively current state report based on census data, pretty conclusive evidence of accuracy. We looked at DMS' previous report and found that in 2007-08 Florida had the same last-place rankings in both categories.
But while our task was to fact-check Sink's statements, we still wondered: Is she pointing out how few state employees we have because she wants to change that rank if she's elected? We can't get lower than "dead last," so does she plan to move the state up in the rankings?
On Sink's website, she appeared to be critical about the fact that Florida came in last in these categories -- she italicized the word "last" and the phrase "dead last." Here is the full context of what she wrote:
"The face of Florida government is reflected by the efforts of its employees, whose contributions are intended to help people, businesses, communities, and overall quality of life. Compensating public employees fairly is essential, because without the ability to attract and retain well-trained and knowledgeable staff, Florida government cannot deliver the programs and services that citizens depend on. Florida already is not competitive in this area compared to other Florida industries and even other states. In fact, state government employees have not had a general pay raise in the past five years. In 2008, the average annual state employee salary of $38,839 was 4.5 percent below Florida's average wage for all industries. Compared to other states, Florida ranks last in the ratio of employees to residents: 118 per 10,000 compared to the national average of 216 employees per 10,000 residents. And Florida is dead last in the nation in state employee payroll expenditures per resident: $38 compared to the national average of $69 per resident. As Governor, Alex Sink will push to ensure that state employees are recognized for high performance by receiving fair and competitive compensation."
We asked Jennings in an interview, would Sink add more state jobs?
"No but she wants to make sure state employees are recognized for high performance and receiving fair and competitive pay,'' she said. Jennings added that Sink wants to "streamline middle management" and we saw on her website that she stated "As CFO, Alex recently launched an initiative to streamline middle management in the Department of Financial Services, with an estimated savings of $8 (million) to $10 million a year when fully implemented. As agency managers resign or retire, their positions will be reviewed for elimination and the agency structure re-engineered using existing staff to cut unnecessary management layers in government." So now Sink is talking about reducing the number of jobs though attrition -- not adding them.
We asked Jennings for more clarity. She told us in an e-mail:
"The point of the statistics you're fact checking is to demonstrate how lean Florida government already is compared to other states. Alex Sink will bring stakeholders together and do a top to bottom assessment of state government and its workforce -- inviting innovative ideas about how we attract quality workers, reward effectiveness and continue to make government more efficient and productive for our citizens -- before setting specific goals on numbers of state employees."
Or to put it more simply: Stay tuned. We don't think Sink has made clear yet how she will reach the goals of streamlining middle management and paying fair and competitive salaries if she is elected governor.
But for this Truth-O-Meter, our task was to evaluate whether Sink's statement was accurate that Florida ranks last in the ratio of employees to residents and in state employee payroll expenditures. Sink accurately quoted those rankings from the state's most-recent Department of Management Services report, although Florida tied Illinois on the number of employees per 10,000 residents -- putting both in last place. We rate this claim True.
Alex Sink campaign website, "Government Accountability & Reform How a Business Leader Achieves Real Results in Government," Sept. 13, 2010
Florida Department of Management Services, State Personnel System Annual Workforce Report 2008-2009
Interview, Alex Sink campaign spokeswoman Kyra Jennings, Sept. 12-13, 2010
Interview, Florida Department of Management Services spokeswoman Lauren Engel, Sept. 13, 2010
New York Times, "Illinois is trying. It really is. But the most corrupt state is actually...",Dec. 13, 2008
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