BUSINESS
12/16/2011 12:07 pm ET

California State Nurses Take Home Big Paychecks As State Faces Budget Crisis

Picking up a few extra shifts apparently pays off in the Golden State.

Forty-two California state nurses raked in more than $1 million since 2005 in large part because of overtime pay, according to a Bloomberg analysis. In total, the nurses made $47.5 million -- some by collecting more than $200,000 in overtime in a given year. Though the cost to California's budget may seem steep, nurses aren't the only ones netting extra benefits; the state paid out $1.7 billion last year in extra pay overall, according to a separate Bloomberg report.

The huge public employee paychecks come at a time when California can least afford it. The state faces $2 billion automatic spending cuts on the first of the year, according to a nonpartisan fiscal analysis. Lawmakers hoped that the budget they passed this summer would produce a $4 billion revenue boost. Instead the increase will be $3.7 billion less than officials anticipated.

The budget squeeze pushed officials to put 3,300 state workers on notice for layoffs in September, according to the Sacramento Bee. The state is one of many that have shed jobs since the onset of the recession. The U.S. lost 20,000 government jobs last month, while governments have cut about 500,000 jobs since Februrary 2010, according to the Labor Department.

Still, a myriad of California state employees are taking home big salaries. The five highest paid government employees all work in the prison system, according to LA Weekly, including the head parole psychiatrist for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation who made $838,706 -- the most of any public employee in the state.

The crown of highest paid public employee in California may be up for debate. A prison surgeon was actually the highest paid public employee, netting $777,423 in 2010 while not working because he was taking home two years of back pay while appealing a termination, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But prison employees aren't the only California state employees making the big bucks. Most of the full-time lifeguards in Newport Beach, California get more than $100,000 in pay, benefits and overtime.

ALL-RELATED-ON-HUFFPOST

CONVERSATIONS