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Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans often talk about shrinking the size of government and spending less taxpayer money.
Personnel costs are one measure of government spending that is both easy to understand and significant. Ohio’s payroll last year was more than $3 billion.
Kasich recently was asked about the state’s payroll during a question-and-answer session with reporters after a public appearance in Columbus on March 2. The question was posed to Kasich shortly after the state released its payroll data in response to a public records request.
A reporter suggested to Kasich the payroll had decreased and the governor rattled off some more statistics on the state’s workforce. The Ohio Capital Blog recorded video of the exchange and archived it online.
"The total (state) payroll has gone down. The total amount of the number of workers in the state has gone down. I like the fact that the bulk of that is just by retirements."
The new payroll figures show that the state is becoming more efficient, the governor went on to say. Kasich, who took office in January 2011, said the declines in payroll and workforce show Ohio can do more with less.
PolitiFact Ohio decided to check the governor’s claim, given the general interest in government spending and Kasich’s boastful interpretation of the new payroll data.
We checked with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, which keeps payroll figures. The department also provided figures for the number of state workers and the number of retirements, so we were able to check all three aspects of the governor’s claim.
It turns out that Kasich was wrong to say the state’s payroll went down. He was correct, however, to say the state has fewer workers and that retirement is the main reason for the reduction in workforce.
The state’s payroll in 2010, the year before Kasich took office, was $3.083 billion, according to the department of administrative services. The payroll figure includes payments for overtime, sick leave, vacation leave and other forms of compensation.
In 2011, the state’s payroll was $3.084 billion – an increase of about $1.4 million, or 0.045 percent. One factor for the payroll bump was the end of a policy halfway through the year that forced state workers to take unpaid days off. The policy saved the state $104 million in 2010 and about $48 million last year.
When explaining Kasich’s erroneous claim that payroll decreased, Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the governor, cited a media report published the day Kasich met with reporters that said payroll decreased. But Nichols did not dispute the figures provided to us by the Department of Administrative Services that showed a slight increase.
Although Kasich was off when talking about the state payroll, he was right about the decrease in state workers and the reason most of them aren’t working for the state anymore.
The department of administrative services said Ohio employed 54,906 workers at the very start of this year and 58,304 a year earlier – a difference of 3,398 workers.
The department also said 2,909 workers retired in 2011. So Kasich was correct to say the "bulk" of workers no longer with the state left due to retirement.
Where does that leave us?
The governor was partially accurate. Of the three parts in Kasich’s claim, he was accurate on two: the number of workers on the state payroll has decreased and the biggest reason is jobs emptied by retirements.
He missed, though, on the main part of his statement, that the state had decreased its payroll. Actually, it has grown, but very slightly at less than five one-hundredths of a percent. That’s an important detail to known, given that he went on to boast about the state’s efficiency under his administration.
On the Truth-O-Meter, his claim rates Half True.
Ohio Capital Blog, video of Kasich meeting with reporters on March 2, posted to YouTube on March 2, 2012
Interviews and e-mail correspondence with Dan Kaman, legislative liaison, Ohio Department of Administrative Services
Interviews and e-mail correspondence with Rob Nichols, spokesman for Kasich
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