Government Head Count: Back to Where We Started

Gov. Mark R. Warner succeeded in getting his 2004 tax increase passed largely on the basis of the promise to taxpayers that he had done everything humanly possible to streamline state government, cut the state workforce and make the state administration run leaner and more efficiently than ever. As evidence for his claims, he could point to the fact that the number of state employees, which stood at 111,993 on Jan. 31, 2001, was down to 105,748 by Jan. 31, 2004.

A five or six percent reduction in head count wasn’t an especially formidable accomplishment by private sector standards, but it was pretty impressive by state government standards. It was certainly enough to give luster to Warner’s reputation as a tight-fisted governor at a time that he was insisting that higher taxes were needed.

Then, along came Timothy M. Kaine, who ran for governor as part of the “Warner/Kaine team,” proclaiming that a Kaine administration would maintain the Warner legacy. Shaking off Jerry Kilgore’s campaign charge that he was just another tax-and-spend liberal, Kaine won the election.

With more than a year in office and two sessions of the General Assembly under his belt, Kaine is looking less and less like Mark Warner. Well, to be more accurate, he looks less like the agressive cost-cutting Mark Warner of popular renown.

According to Department of Human Resource Management figures, the number of employees in state government on Jan. 31, 2007, had climbed to within 97 of what it had been before Warner started hacking down the size of state government. Here are the numbers:

1/31/2001 …… 111,994
1/31/2002 …… 108,039
1/31/2003 …… 104,291
1/31/2004 …… 105,749
1/31/2005 …… 108,796
1/31/2006 …… 110,642
1/31/2007 …… 111,897

(To dig deeper into the numbers by government agency, click here.)

I can’t think of any major programs created since 2004 that could account for such an increase. Apparently, there was less than meets the eye to the Warner-era cost cutting — please note the run-up in employment during the last two years of the Warner administration after the tax increases went into effect. Furthermore, there is no sign in these numbers that the Kaine administration ever adopted the parsimonious attitude that prevailed in the Warner administration at least during the recession years.

Bottom line: When Kaine attacks the GOP transportation compromise on the grounds that it would divert precious General Fund revenues from school children, old people in nursing homes and first responders (ritual disclaimer: I don’t support the GOP bill but I hate seeing it criticized for unjustifiable reasons), he can’t claim the same moral high ground that Warner enjoyed in 2004 when he was campaigning for a tax increase. Today, state spending is soaring and head count is surging.

Not only is the state running a chronic surplus — a point that the low-tax wing of the General Assembly has made frequently — Kaine can make no plausible claim that he’s trying to hold state spending in check. If the Governor wants to convince taxpayers that another tax hike is necessary, he’s going to have to do better.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


4 responses to “Government Head Count: Back to Where We Started”

  1. Roll Tide Avatar
    Roll Tide

    Mr. Bacon, between 45% and 50% of state expenditures go directly to local governments or support local government services. I think that is the point that the governor is trying to make. If you take bond proceeds off the top [which is how the general fund would be affected in the transportation bill] regardless of whether the budget is increasing, holding steady, or decreasing, someone somewhere is going to have to cut services. Maybe not at the state level, but more than likely at the local level. Maybe not so much in Chesterfield or Henrico Counties, but perhaps in Halifax or Wise Counties.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I assume the count does not include the 600 or so employees that went to Northrop Grumman.

    Since the Commonwealth still pays for the services of those individuals plus the individuals that make up the current workforce count, wouldn’t that make the numbers higher than in the Warner years?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Looks like most of the increase in workers came from educational agencies. Listed below are the agencies that had an increase of 100 or more:

    Agency                 2004       2007       Change

    Senate                 34.03      134.32     100.29
    Radford Univ           1045.24    1,146.20   100.96
    Norfolk St Univ        920.5      1,023.00   102.50
    Comm Corrections       1296.43    1,400.58   104.15
    J. Sarg Comm Coll      336        441.60     105.60
    State Police           2588       2,696.08   108.08
    William and Mary       1469.6     1,592.78   123.18
    Conservation & Rec     474.6      601.30     126.70
    Deerfield Corr Ctr     181.76     318.30     136.54
    Alc Bev Control        1768       1,922.63   154.63
    No Va Comm Coll        1416.66    1,572.15   155.49
    Indigent Defense Comm  367.94     528.93     160.99
    VPI & State Univ       5744.21    5,939.41   195.20
    Tidewater Comm Coll    773.43     980.15     206.72
    Health                 3634.43    3,856.10   221.67
    Old Dominion Univ      2106.99    2,375.53   268.54
    Forensic Science       0          286.58     286.58
    Christopher Newport Univ  658.01  947.81     289.80
    James Madison Univ     2260.93    2,556.70   295.77
    Univ of Va             6014.46    6,485.45   470.99
    UVA Medical Center     4511.6     5,102.05   590.45
    Va Comm Univ           4942.38    5,659.29   716.91
    George Mason Univ      3114.67    4,484.13   1,369.46

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    For another take on this, see todays Wall Street Journal Editorial “Iceland’s Laffer Curve”

    Iceland is enjoying spectacular growth by opening up their economy and lowering taxes. Accrding to the article, Icalanders are among the world’s wealthiest people.

    Then, of course, there is the Icelandic Winter.

Leave a Reply