While critics believe California state government is bloated, a new analysis from a Silicon Valley think tank suggests the state has one of the leanest work forces in the country. Census data released this week shows California had 393,609 full-time-equivalent employees as of last March, working out to 105 employees per 10,000 state residents, according to the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. That makes California the third-lowest in the nation in state employees per resident, behind every state except Illinois (at 103) and Nevada (at 104). The federal government has 142 employees per 10,000 residents. “It does suggest that at least compared to other states, we’re not carrying a lot of extra employees,” said center director Stephen Levy. But Levy cautioned that the analysis does not necessarily mean California government operates as efficiently as it can. And he noted that employee salaries in California tend to be higher than most other states, partly because of the high cost of living. Some conservative critics believe those high salary levels are fueling laxity in state government employees. State Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, said that simply because of economies of scale, least-populated states tend to have the most employees per resident while larger states automatically rank near the bottom. McClintock said California actually should rank at the bottom and has the highest average salary figures for state employees – far higher than other states with similar cost-of-living levels. “What the numbers are actually telling us is there is a great deal of fat that can be cut from state bureaucracy,” McClintock said. “Quite the opposite of the conclusion they’re reaching.” McClintock said California’s average monthly payroll works out to about $5,211 per employee. By comparison, New York state pays around $4,750 per employee every month and the federal government pays about $3,945. The study comes four years after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for office in the 2003 recall and vowed to make state government leaner and more efficient. Schwarzenegger launched a California Performance Review designed to analyze government top-to-bottom. The review led to thousands of suggested efficiencies but most were eventually ignored. And California’s payroll and work force size has continued to grow. In 2003, California’s monthly payroll was $1.8 billion, according to the Census. By 2006, it had increased nearly 14 percent to $2.05 billion. At the same time, the state work force grew 1.1 percent, from 389,345 in 2003 to 393,609 in 2006. But a spokesman for Schwarzenegger noted the governor has implemented efficiencies in state government that have resulted in a range of changes including shorter wait times at Department of Motor Vehicle offices and quicker professional licensing procedures. “This report clearly shows that California state government is running efficiently for the people,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. “Cleaning out the cobwebs of government has been a priority for Gov. Schwarzenegger.” As for the pay for state employees, McLear added, “We have a lot of sharp people working for state government, delivering services for the citizens of this state. We think they are compensated fairly.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!