By Catharine Richert
With all the talk about taxes and spending, this year's gubernatorial race is a debate over the size of Minnesota's government.
While his opponents point to the size of Minnesota's public sector workforce as evidence that government has gotten too big, DFLer Mark Dayton says the talking point is a myth.
"Minnesota ranks, according to Census Bureau, the 10th lowest state in the number of state and local government employees per capita among the states," he said during a debate in Winona Aug. 19, 2010. "It's just one of these myths that's perpetrated that we're overinflated with public employees. It just simply isn't true."
Dayton nearly hits the mark with this claim.
Annually, the U.S. Census Bureau measures the number of federal, state, and local civilian government employees in each state. The survey is required by law, and it's this data that Dayton's staff points to support his claim.
According to an analysis done by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union for many state workers, Dayton's correct. (AFSCME has endorsed Dayton for governor.)
With approximately 36,000 full-time state government employees, Minnesota has the 10th leanest workforce in the country. That translates to 71 government workers for every 10,000 people. (It's important to note that Dayton said "per capita," not per 10,000 employees, but it's an error PoliGraph will let slide because looking at this data per capita would produce very small, not very useful numbers. For instance, per capita, there are about .007 full-time state employees for every person living in the state.)
But Dayton said state and local employees, and the AFSCME analysis excludes local government workers.
Expanding the analysis to include all state and local government employees counted by the U.S. Census Bureau nevertheless produces similar results. By this measure, Minnesota has the 12th smallest public sector workforce in the nation, with about 450 government employees per 10,000 people.
Dayton got a few things mixed-up with this claim, but he's well within range to say that Minnesota has one of the smallest state and local government workforces in the country.
This claim is accurate.
The U.S. Census Bureau, Government Employment and Payroll: About the Survey, accessed Sept. 10, 2010
The Star Tribune, New normal is painful for state employees, by Lori Sturdevant, 4/19/2009
PoliGraph, analysis of state and local workers, created Sept. 10, 2010
Interview, Jeremy Drucker, spokesman, Mark Dayton, Sept. 8, 2010
Interview, Mike Messina, researcher, AFSCME, Sept. 8, 2010
PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.