Minnesota’s state government is going on a hiring spree just as it agreed to pay hikes

Back in March, my colleague Bill Walsh warned that the proposed creation and expansion of a raft of state agencies would lead to a boom in state government hiring: Gov. Walz “proposed adding 2,349 FTEs in the major state agencies alone,” he noted. As Bill noted in a follow up, when he was asked about this, the Governor, thin-skinned as ever,

…first tried to avoid answering by dismissing American Experiment as the source of the data. “Is it the usual Minnesota think tank who puts that out? Well then, I will dismiss that as it should be dismissed.” (Never forget — they hold you in contempt.)

But then he denies adding thousands of new state employees in his budget proposal by saying the cost of government today is the same as it was in 2002. Really? The state budget for the 2002-03 biennium was $26.6 billion. Walz’s proposed budget for the 2024-25 biennium is $66.3 billion. The only way Walz can make this ridiculous comparison is by using the bogus Price of Government Index invented by Gov. Arne Carlson back in the 1990s. The price of government is an index that measures state and local government spending as a percentage of personal income. It’s a moving target that allows politicians like Walz to claim government spending is not out of control.

Let us be blunt: when asked about the proposed expansion of state government employment, Governor Walz told a bare faced lie.

Last month, the Star Tribune finally got around to noting that:

State government is already one of Minnesota’s largest employers, and its ranks are about to multiply as it adds a legion of new workers to help enact an expansive agenda the DFL-controlled Legislature passed this year.

“It’s reasonable to assume that we are going to hire at least a couple thousand people over the next couple of years,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, whose agency leads state hiring efforts. “That’s going to be a major lift and an opportunity to get a more diverse workforce, hire more veterans and really stock our talent pool.”

The state needs to add more than 400 new employees by 2026 to run Minnesota’s paid family and medical leave program. A commissioner and more than 200 workers are wanted to oversee the legalized marijuana market. Hundreds more will be required to run new or expanded education, housing and energy programs.

“It’s got to be one of the biggest, most impactful sessions in terms of the creation of new state jobs that I’ve ever seen,” said Minnesota Business Partnership Executive Director Charlie Weaver, who served in two former governors’ administrations.

Not only is the state government going to be hiring thousands more people, it is going to be giving them all a bumper pay increase as well. Last week, MPR News reported:

Minnesota’s largest state government employee unions reached new contract deals on Friday that will bring their members the biggest raises in many years.

The tentative agreements involve DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s administration, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.

Union leaders say the new contracts would bring raises of 5.5 percent this summer and 4.5 percent next year. And they pointed to other adjustments to the pay scale to boost ranges for certain positions.

Adam Novotny, co-chair of negotiations for MAPE, said his union fought for bigger raises but settled for what the union said were still the biggest two-year pay bumps in decades.

And the unions say there would be a $20 per hour minimum wage for state jobs and limits on health insurance increases as well as cost-free mental health visits in many instances. Other provisions clear up policies around paid leave, sick time, telework and early retirement.

It’s not immediately known how much the contracts will cost between July 1 and their expiration in two years. The Legislature recently adopted a nearly $72 billion state budget that contained significant boosts to state agency funding.

This isn’t how things have been done previously. Minn Post reports:

…for AFSCME Council 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, one of the best parts of the new agreement — the first of a dozen or more being negotiated between the state and its unions — is the deal is final when union rank and file ratify it. That is in stark contrast to the past when workers had temporary deals that only became permanent when the House and Senate blessed them – something that could take nearly a year and get wound up in legislative politics. (Details of the deal are here.)

A series of deletions from current law that are contained in the state government omnibus bill quietly took the Legislature out of the approval pathway.

This change began its life as a DFL-sponsored bill; a request of the 17 different union bargaining groups representing 47,000 state workers. DFL lawmakers were receptive both because of their political coalition with the unions and their unhappiness with how Republicans have used ratification as a bargaining chip.

Darn those fiscally responsible Republicans.

It would be unfair to drunken sailors to compare them to the current administration: the sailors are, after all, spending their own money, not yours.