Less is more
It's good that Republican Rob McKenna got an early jump on his gubernatorial campaign. His kickoff press conference two weeks ago has proved to be a learning experience. Seeking favorable publicity, he picked a fight with a liberal writer, who has been bludgeoning him since. He also picked a fight with reality, and it too has been on a pulverizing counterattack.
Less is more
At the same time he promised to cut big government. But it turns out to be not nearly as big, and as bad, as he said it was.
In the period from 1998 to 2008, he said, the number of state employees grew 13 percent. As the Associated Press notes today, "This line in his speech drew the most shock from his followers" at the kickoff event.
If he'd gotten it right, the statement might have drawn an even bigger gasp: The number of full-time-equivalent workers actually grew 17 percent over that period, says AP writer Mike Baker. On the other hand:
The number of state personnel fell 2 percent last year and is expected to fall 2 percent again this coming year. Looking at the decade between 2000 and 2010, the number of full-time-equivalent workers will have only grown by 10 percent. By comparison, Census data shows the number of people living in Washington state grew by 14 percent over the same span.
McKenna also told his supporters that "every single year the state increased the amount it spent per employee by five percent - every year for ten years." Wrong, says the AP. State data shows just a 3.6 percent increase each year over that period. That's about average, since salaries for all jobs, private and public, rose 3.5 percent annually statewide that period.
McKenna reached his incorrect numbers after seeing a 48 percent growth over the decade. His supporting documents indicate that he took that number and divided by 10 years to reach his conclusion about 5 percent annual growth.
But annual growth can't be calculated so easily. Because each year's increase compounds on top of the last, a 5 percent annual growth for 10 years would end up being 63 percent growth for the decade - not 48 percent.
McKenna also said "the state increased the amount it spent on state worker benefits by nine percent a year every single year for ten years." Wrong again, says the AP. The correct figure is 7.1 percent annually. Average benefit increases per employee were even less, growing by about 5.4 percent each year.
In a statement, McKenna "didn't address" his faulty math, and reiterated his belief the state is spending too much on personnel. In reality, the state has been slashing positions (down 7,000 since 2008) and chopping the budget--it's set to cut $4.5 billion over the next two years. Someone buy Rob McKenna a new calculator. His campaign so far doesn't add up.