Idaho’s state government workforce is at levels close to the year 2000, except for some anomalies at public universities. A headcount of Idaho state employees by the state controller this month shows the state has 23,986 employees, down from a high of 25,557 three years ago.

“We have cut government considerably,” said Gov. Butch Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian. The governor has called for reductions in state operations in his recent speeches and during his re-election campaign. “It shows the governor is not only talking the talk but walking the walk.”

Every year, the controller’s office releases its Rainbow Report listing the number of employees in each state agency. The list doesn’t include public school teachers or local government employees. Idaho’s four public universities and colleges all employ more than 1,000 workers as do the Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho Transportation Department and Idaho Department of Correction.

The report also includes an employee count in late December that shows an increase in employees during the past year. The more than 1,000 worker discrepancy between the December and January employee count is largely due to shifts at Boise State University and the University of Idaho. The controller’s office doesn’t do payroll for university staff, so it can’t track why there’s the large change. An official in the controller’s office said some state agencies separated with some of their employees at the end of the year.

The totals in the Rainbow Report include anyone paid by the state, which is a higher total than the number of full-time positions (FTP) for each state agency. The number of FTP is set to drop from a peak of 18,340 for the previous budget year to a recommended 17,873.

In his latest budget package, the governor is recommending adding 96 FTP, with roughly half of them coming in the State Tax Commission, as it steps up its efforts to collect owed taxes. The number of FTP for every 1,000 Idaho residents has declined for the past nine years.

It can be difficult to use a snapshot of state payrolls or FTP counts to measure the size of the state government workforce. According to legislative budget analyst Cathy Holland-Smith, many state agencies that have had their FTP authorizations limited have brought on temporary workers, if the funding has been available.

Another way to measure the size of state government would be to look at the size of the general fund budget. After a peak in fiscal year 2009 of $2.96 billion, it has dropped to $2.38 billion in the current budget.

The Rainbow Report also included a list of all 300 state employees that earn more than the governor. Topping the list is Boise State University football coach Chris Petersen at $915,636.

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