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SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2007

State government no longer getting smaller under Riley

By Phillip Rawls
AP Political Writer

MONTGOMERY — The trend of smaller state government that Gov. Bob Riley exhibited in his first two years in office has reversed itself, with the number of employees in the executive branch of government growing 2 percent in the last two years.

Gov. Don Siegelman’s administration recorded 34,506 workers in the executive branch government at the end of fiscal 2002. Riley’s administration reached a low of 33,191 at the end of fiscal 2004, but the number had risen to 33,936 at the end of fiscal 2006, according to figures compiled by the state Personnel Department for its annual reports.

Those numbers are just for departments and agencies in the executive branch of government, which is headed by the governor. They do not include legislative or court employees who are not under the governor’s direct control.

The biggest increase in state employment has come in the state’s biggest agency, the Transportation Department, which has added 483 workers since the Siegelman administration.

Riley said that’s the result of his administration nearly wrapping up a long-running employment discrimination suit that froze hiring for many jobs in the department.

During that period, the department contracted out work that would normally be done by state employees, but now the department is hiring like any other agency.

“We are replacing contract workers who were making twice as much as the people we are hiring. So the numbers may be going up, but the state of Alabama is saving more money than we have in the last 10 years,” Riley said.

Another big increase from the Siegelman administration has occurred at the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, which added 252 workers. Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said that is the result of the administration creating a second parole board to speed up parole consideration and hiring extra probation and parole officers to supervise the parolees.

The extra paroles helped relieved crowded conditions in state prisons and county jails.

Another reason for the change is that when Riley came into office, the state faced a budget deficit. Many state departments got their budgets cut, and most state employees didn’t get a cost-of-living raise or merit raise for two years.

That resulted in a higher-than-normal exodus of workers, and a hiring freeze kept them from being replaced, state Personnel Director Jackie Graham said.

During Riley’s re-election campaign last year, he noted on his Web site that he “cut the number of state employees to its lowest point in seven years.”

Riley did cut the state’s total payroll in 2004 for the first time in seven yeas, but the lowest number of employees in the last seven years occurred during Siegleman’s administration, when the number dropped to 32,155 employees in fiscal 2000, according to the Personnel Department’s reports.

During Riley’s administration, the state work force has continued two long-running trends: becoming increasingly female and increasing the percentage of black employees.

Graham said the state merit system employees, who are those hired based on qualifications and don’t change from administration to administration, are now 55.7 percent female and 40.4 percent black.

Department attorney Alice Ann Byrne said the racial percentage is a remarkable turnaround from 1970, when the state was sued over racial discrimination in hiring. At that time, 6 percent of the state government’s work force was black, and out of more than 1,000 state clerical workers, only one was black, Byrne said.

10-year trend

Total employment in state government, excluding legislative and court employees, by fiscal year for the last decade:
Year Total
1997 35,567
1998 32,240
1999 32,802
2000 32,155
2001 33,330
2002 34,506
2003 34,414
2004 33,191
2005 33,294
2006 33,936


Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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