State workforce ‘going in wrong direction’

    Delaware House Republicans say the number of state employees is still on the rise, despite the efforts of the Markell administration. Markell’s people — and their data — say that’s not true.

    Republican leaders in the Delaware House of Representatives question whether Gov. Jack Markell and his administration have made good on a promise to reduce the size of state government.

    They cite recent figures released by the state Department of Labor that reveal the state workforce has actually grown over the last year.

    According to the data, released in a House Republican statement, state government employed 31,600 people in April 2009. That figure grew to 31,700 employees this April — a gain of 100 positions.

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    “We’re continuing to grow our already large state government,” said State House Minority Leader Dick Cathcart (R-Middletown). “We’re moving in the wrong direction.”

    As the General Assembly finalizes the operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st, House Republicans would like to see the state workforce reduced.

    To do that, the 17 members of their caucus are calling for the following steps: A continuation of the hiring freeze of non-essential state workers; reducing the state workforce by 500 positions via attrition for 2011; and setting a cap on the overall number of state workers.

    However, administration officials, citing statistics provided by the Office of Management and Budget, stand by their claims that state government is getting smaller.

    According to those figures, between March 2009 and March 2010, the total number of state employees fell by 129 people, from 31,450 to 31,321.

    But Markell spokesman Brian Selander says the difference in the overall totals is irrelevant because the administration has delivered in its goal of reducing the number of executive branch employees.

    For executive branch agencies under the governor’s direction (which do not include school districts, higher education and the judicial and legislative branches), the total number of full time employees between March 2009 and March 2010 fell from 14,039 to 13,515, a decrease of 524 employees.

    “What they’re doing is they’re wrapping in school districts, higher education and Del Tech into that,” Selander said. “And yes, there’s been growth in teachers and professors and things like that. So If they would like to go to Delaware State and the University of Delaware and say you shouldn’t be hiring because you should help limit the growth of government, that would be a fascinating conversation to watch them have.”

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