Does Oklahoma have too many state employees?

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has once again dusted off their tired old argument that Oklahoma has too many government employees. In an Oklahoman guest editorial by Brandon Dutcher, OCPA suggests Oklahoma’s lawmakers should use the current budget shortfall to trim Oklahoma’s “bloat” of state employees.

OPEA carefully analyzed detailed data from the US Bureau of Census to determine the source of Dutcher’s argument. The editorial indicates that “Oklahoma’s ratio of government employment to private-sector employment is a startling fifth highest in the nation.” Oklahoma ranks high not because of what is traditionally thought of as state employees; corrections, child welfare, transportation, and nursing. The high ranking can be attributed to the state’s rate of federal and higher education employees.

The data used to calculate the ratio cited in the Dutcher article includes Oklahoma’s high rate of federal employees, or approximately 100,000 of the state’s government employees. Oklahoma is ninth in the nation in per capita federal employees. In many communities, the large number of federal employees is considered to be economic development. Meetings of the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission causes Oklahomans to rally around the flag and send our delegation to Washington ready to fight for our bases!

Oklahoma is 16th in the nation in per capita state employees. Oregon, with a population similar to Oklahoma has 59,619 state employees, compared to Oklahoma which has 69,916 state employees, or 10,000 more state employees than Oregon. If you examine the data closely, you will find that Oklahoma has 29,111 full-time-equivalent employees (FTEs) in higher education and Oregon has 19,708 higher education FTEs. (The source of this data is the latest available from the U.S. Bureau of Census 2007 state comparisons.)

Below is a comparison of the number of employees in higher education and other state government since, 1982. (The source of this data is the Office of State Finance, which has the most recent numbers on Oklahoma state employees.)

Higher Education All other functions of state government
1982 21,207 34,179
1992 23,572 39,325
2002 29,541 36,074
2009 32.351 37.187

OCPA, who annually attacks “government employees” at the beginning of session, has a group of “Adjunct Scholars” who are on faculty at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities and receive state paychecks. These “scholars” are some of the highest paid state employees in Oklahoma.

Below are a few of OCPA’s “Adjunct Scholars” and their February 2009 paycheck from the state of Oklahoma.

Will Clark, Ph.D OU $11,652
Russell W. Jones, Ph.D UCO $ 5,659
Michael Scaperlanda, J.D. OU $14,502
David Deming, Ph.D OU $ 7,738
J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D. OU $19,264

U.S. Bureau of Census: State Government Employment and Payroll 2007
Oklahoma Office of State Finance FTE data
CQ Press’s State Fact Finder Series, State Rankings 2008

Related News