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Ohio payroll increase deserves attention

Despite the often sincere efforts of legislators and governors to curb growth in government, state bureaucracies have a way of creeping up on taxpayers. So it appears to have been in Ohio.

When Gov. John Kasich took office a few years ago, he and members of the General Assembly had to make tough decisions to close an $8 billion budget gap left by former Gov. Ted Strickland. By imposing strict discipline on state government and reducing some aid to localities, Kasich and lawmakers were able to accomplish the task.

But last week, it was reported the state government payroll has topped $3 billion a year, for the first time since 2011. An increase in paychecks of about $53 million, or 1.76 percent, was recorded between last year and the previous year.

Few taxpayers begrudge government employees decent pay for good work. And a 1.76 percent increase, on average, does not sound excessive – especially given that the number of state employees stayed reasonably level, at nearly 52,000.

And in terms of efficiency, state government may be getting better. One evidence of that is that during the same year in which the payroll went up, the amount of overtime pay decreased slightly.

Still, the increase to more than $3 billion after payrolls were below that for several years bears attention from Kasich and legislators.

Many Ohio taxpayers got no pay raises last year, after all. They will not be happy if they believe the bureaucracy is back to its old tricks.