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Ken of Stillwater asked how the share of state government workers as a percentage of state population has changed over time. "Ideally, you would like to see employee growth lag population growth by a percentage point or two per year, showing improved productivity in state government."

It may surprise you, Ken, that the reality of the past dozen years is in the direction of your ideal. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps track of state and local government employment in all 50 states, and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) uses those figures plus population to calculate the number of state employees per 10,000 state residents.

That ratio has fallen in the past decade, from a peak of 84 employees per 10,000 residents in 2002 to 80 employees in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Throughout that period, Minnesota's ratio has been below the U.S. average, which in 2011 stood at 84.9 FTE employees per 10,000 state residents, down from 94.5 per 10,000 in 2002.

Ken also asked what percentage of the state's general fund is spent on employee compensation. "About 6-8 percent," MMB spokesman John Pollard answered. The preponderance of the state's general fund goes to school districts, colleges and universities, nursing homes and local governments, not the state's payroll.