Red States See Massive Public Sector Job Losses
By Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert
The conservative Republicans who took power in Pennsylvania in 2010 have had a busy year. Republican state legislators, empowered by new control of the governorship and the state house, proposed one of the most stringent mandatory ultrasound bills in the country. The House passed a voter identification law that could block 700,000 Pennsylvanians from voting, most of them young, of color, and poor. Meanwhile, the same state legislators led a successful charge to shrink public employment. The number of government employees fell over 3 percent that year, one of the sharpest declines in any state. Before the cuts, “Pennsylvania [had] the second lowest number of state workers per capita, already,” said Rebecca McNichol, Pennsylvania state director of the CLEAR Coalition. Yet, she says, “this past year the budget was devastating” in deeper cuts.
Pennsylvania isn’t alone. Republicans seized control of both branches of the legislature in 11 states after the 2010 elections. It’s in these very states that public sector layoffs are disproportionately concentrated, leading to one of the biggest rounds of job losses for the public workforce since record keeping began. Governors and state legislators promised to focus on creating jobs and balancing budgets during campaign season—even newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett still claims that creating jobs is one of his “top priorities.” Instead, these newly Republican states are targeting public workers, causing a significant drop in employment in the public sector that has threatened the entire economy.