Ten million here, ten million there…

Pretty soon you are talking about real money!

Governor Scott Walker is having some success buttoning down government spending in ways we don’t always track. A post from a Twitter buddy last weekend led me to this story from The Northwestern.

Policy changes after Act 10 cut overtime in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections by $10 million last year, a 25 percent drop for an agency that accounts for more than half of all overtime worked by state employees.

The article is filled with good factual information. (Delightful considering most of the reading I do is printed as news but actually couched opinion.)

1) A link to a Post Crescent DOC Overtime by Pay Period table.

2) The news that 827 (Eight hundred twenty-seven) Department of Corrections jobs remain unfilled.

3) The DOC has more than 10,000 employees and is the 6th largest employer in the state. (Isn’t that depressing?)

4) A starting salary is a little over $14 an hour or $31,000 a year.

The article showed a good give and take between the union side of the argument and the government/cost reduction side of the argument. I do remember some of this back and forth when working on the City of Brookfield budgets years ago. On the one hand, a $31,000 employee actually costs around $45,000 to employee, but on the other, overtime costs for certain departments were unbelievably high. Senior salaried employees time-and-a-half cost a lot more than that of lower level employees.

Senior employees liked not having new hires as it gave them more opportunities for overtime. That’s another tidbit offered in the writing: Act 10 changed the negotiated terms by which overtime was delivered, and that means lesser expensive employees now have a chance for the extra hours. Also, a lot of unions buttoned down how many new hires could come in over a year. That’s no longer an option, either.

Here’s my question: If 827 jobs are unfilled and lowering overtime appears to reduce the overall cost of providing correction services, why aren’t there more hires taking place? It seems to me if Governor Scott Walker really wanted to have a big number boost in his goal for 250,000 jobs, at least 500 are here for the filling. Wouldn’t a decent job initiative be to provide a few scholarships or otherwise accelerate training to get them filled?

Mathematically, there has to be a point where the cost of new hires successfully intersects the savings in overtime. Find it and make that number of new hires happen. (For the most part, government as a business never makes sense to me. As a student of business and markets for most of my adult life, I see government always falling short of common sense, common practice improvements. Using math is something that usually eludes most government officials.)

Do it, dammit. Governor Walker is quick to proclaim the smallest in achievements – here’s a link to his page showing $2.1 million in savings on the same subject back in May 2012 – why not make it something to really crow about?


  1. Just for the sake of fairness, it was a republican governor ( Thompson) that enabled DOC to become the 6th largest employer in the state. So give credit/blame where it is due. Tommy made prisons big business in Wisconsin.

  2. Thanks for the detail.

  3. Isn’t overtime actually cheaper than covering the hours with a new hire and the attendant benefits?

  4. That’s the typical union response, jimpsice. The Cindy response is that there will be a mathematically derived point where cost of new hires intersects cost of overtime, and that’s the number of new hires that should take place.

  5. Yeah, but doesn’t the overtime part of the graph occur before the hire-a-new-guy part?