"It’s only a half truth and therefore, the blackest of lies: Don’t believe it!"
"…a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In a recent editorial (December 29) the Rutland Herald asserts that "Given that we have far more state employees per capita than other New England states, it’s hard to imagine there’s no fat to be trimmed from the state budget."
It’s hardly surprising – given the paucity of honest analysis regarding the current economic crisis – that no evidence is provided by the Rutland Herald to support this claim.
No matter: true or not, I’m sure that this assertion will be trotted out more than once over the next few weeks to justify the proposed cuts in state government.
Well, is it true that Vermont has far more state employees per capita than other New England states?
It’s only a half truth and therefore, the blackest of lies: Don’t believe it!
It is true that Vermont has a relatively high number of state employees per capita. I emphasize "state", because based on my analysis of the US Census bureau data released in November (http://www.census.gov/govs/www/apes.html), when education is excluded, Vermont is 35th among states in the number of government employees per capita (combined state and local). That places Vermont fourth among New England states, after Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts. The drop in standing from 6th place to 35th place among U.S. states is simple: Vermont is 50th – dead last – among states in local government employees per capita (excluding education related employees). (Note: Vermont’s spending on education is a valid issue for discussion, but one that is entirely separate from the current debate about cutting state workers).
Comparing state government employees per capita among the 50 states is thorny because the different states vary greatly in their apportionment of services among state and local (county and municipal) jurisdictions. Unlike many other states, Vermont lacks a significant county-level government structure and, as already noted, has few municipal employees per capita. The burden falls at the state level: many Vermont towns rely on significant state government services (e.g. state police rather than municipal police force).
So, the Rutland Herald’s assertion is misleading and irresponsible.