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Statehouse beat: Job reports like apples and oranges

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While I was off enjoying the holidays (save for three hours at Yankee Stadium), the left-leaning, union-supported West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy put out a report claiming the state had lost some 17,000 jobs during the year, led by the loss of 5,700 jobs in the government sector.

Which must have come as a shock to the folks in the state Budget Office, which reports that the number of permanent state employee FTE positions grew from 37,709 in January 2012 to 38,149 as of December.

Who's right? Both, probably, although they're comparing apples and oranges.

During the course of 2011 (the most recent calendar year available), a total of 69,943 individuals drew paychecks from the state, according to the Auditor's Office.

However, of that number, a whopping 34,556 were temporary employees.

From state parks to the Tax Division at income tax time, there's any number of reasons for state agencies to hire temporary employees.

However, by far the largest numbers of temporary employees are at colleges around the state, including community and technical colleges. That includes part-time instructors, but work-study students account for the lion's share of the temps. (Because of that, West Virginia University alone was cited for more than 11,000 temporary employees in 2011.)

The CBP may be correct that 5,700 government jobs were lost in 2012, but suffice to say not many were full-time state government positions.

Ironically, one office that did lose employees in 2012 was the governor's office, which went from 84 FTEs in January to 53 currently. That's because during the course of the year, the Office of Economic Opportunity was moved to Commerce, and Volunteer West Virginia went under the Department of Education and the Arts.

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The state Republican Party Executive Committee is late filing its general election campaign financial disclosures, which were due back Dec. 19. Reportedly, they received last-minute contributions from Don Blankenship that they may prefer not to publicize. (Wasn't able to reach Chairman Conrad Lucas for comment Friday ...)

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I'm advised there's been an automated telephone poll ongoing regarding the potential U.S. Senate race between Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

The poll, by Sun Surveys of Miami, Fla., asks straightforward questions regarding opinions of Rockefeller and Capito, and their job performance. Individuals are also asked questions, including whom they voted for in the 2012 presidential election, as well as in the 2008 election between Rockefeller and Republican Jay Wolfe.

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Referencing the litigation re: the Department of Health and Human Resource's advertising and marketing contract. The company that lost the contract (rightfully or maybe not) has done well in landing other contracts promoting healthy lifestyles in other states.

Since November, the Arnold Agency has landed contracts for anti-smoking advertising and promotions from state Tobacco Use Prevention Programs in the states of Montana and Hawaii. (Wonder who gets to be the agency rep on the latter contract?)

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For all the grief I get for pointing out all the state holidays, it's duly noted that many state employees have to work through holidays, as Division of Highways worker David Luzader, of Sutton, eloquently pointed out:

"In 2010, I went to work on Dec. 24 at 11:00 p.m. to drive my snow route. I got off at 7 Christmas morning and had to be back at 7 that evening, which turned out to be near white out conditions all night and very treacherous driving conditions in my huge, overloaded dump truck with sub-par headlights. This can go on for weeks if need be, seven days a week. During last summer's storms, many of us worked July 4, and after the Oct. 30 snowstorm, many worked 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week ... After deductions, I clear about $8.00 per hour."

I think we all appreciate the sacrifices state employees like Luzader make as part of their daily job requirements.

Meanwhile, over in the state Office of Insurance Commissioner, associate general counsel Greg Elam played Grinch by instituting a mandatory attendance report Friday, Dec. 21, that required employees to submit an email at their normal quitting time that evening.

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Finally, normally I would have been grumbling about getting assigned the West Virginian of the Year article, but considering that the honoree was Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, I was more than happy to write the story.

I couldn't help but think of Doc Foster last Saturday, standing in line for a beer at Yankee Stadium. I saw the number 383 and thought, wow, concession prices are much cheaper at the new stadium than they were at the old ballpark.

However, I quickly ascertained that the price for a cup of beer was $11, and 383 was the calorie count, as mandated by New York City ordinance. (The NYC calorie posting law was one of the inspirations for Foster's failed calorie count legislation.)

I deferred having a second beer, although it's hard to say whether cost, calories, or the fact that my fingers were numb was the ultimate determining factor ...

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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