More than 460 full-time positions, most of them currently vacant, could be eliminated from the state payroll. The move being backed by Gov. Butch Otter won’t help out current budget concerns, but could slow expansion in state agencies when Idaho’s economy rebounds, according to Wayne Hammon, Otter’s budget director.
Almost 380 of the positions recommended for removal have been unfilled for more than two years. Some state workers would lose their jobs under the plan, including 25 in the Department of Parks and Recreation, which would merge with the Department of Lands, and five information technology workers whose jobs for agencies near the state Capitol would be consolidated.
Taking unfilled positions off the books won’t affect agency budgets right now, but would help make permanent recent budget cuts and holdbacks, explained Hammon. “There’s no immediate impact in savings… but it slows down growth in the out years.”
Hammon said cutting these open spots now would put a check on expansion, because agencies would need to make formal requests to the Legislature for added positions. “If it’s good growth, fine,” Hammon said. “But it’s not automatic.”
The governor’s plan calls for reducing positions at more than 30 state agencies. Hammon said his staff has talked with all the affected departments. Some agencies, including the Division of Building Safety, don’t want all their vacant positions taken away. Lawmakers will hear from all affected agencies before reaching a decision.
The recommended cuts in positions would reflect recent reductions in agency budgets due to the economic downturn. Some lawmakers don’t want those cuts made permanent.
“On the face of it, it always looks quite good if we’re able to pare down the number of employees we have. But when the agencies come here,” Moscow Democratic Rep. Shirley Ringo said, “there are instances where paring down employees in the public sector has an impact on the private sector that is negative as well.”
Lawmakers have yet to vote on Otter’s recommendation, but some seem receptive to the idea. “We’re just now catching up and cleaning up payroll numbers,” said Jerome Republican Rep. Maxine Bell. “These positions have been open for a long time.”
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