How Fast is Montana’s Government Growing?

By Beacon Staff

The above graph was recently posted on the state’s GOP blog, The Rotunda Report. Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, argues that it’s proof that the state government has become bloated under Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Peterson writes:

While looking at the preliminary numbers for our state budget, I found the graph below which illustrates the number of state employees. During the tenure of Governor Brian Schweitzer, we’ve experienced a dramatic growth in state employees. The red block in this graph is the last year of Governor Judy Martz’s administration.

The graph doesn’t, however, show how fast the state government grew under Martz’s leadership. A blogger at Left in the West argues that it’s about the same because the numbers Peterson used are skewed:

During the 2005 Legislative Session then House Member Jim Peterson and his colleagues passed SB 146 to transfer every Public Defender in Montana from being county employees to the state. The bill received the vote and full support of Peterson.

So, the average annual increase of state employees under the Martz Administration was 1.2% per year, curiously enough the exact same percentage, 1.2%, as Schweitzer. It was the legislatively mandated transfer of the Public Defenders office to the State of Montana that boosted numbers close to what Peterson claims.

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