State Plan To Close Budget Gap Includes Fewer Layoffs Than Expected
The Shumlin administration is finalizing its plan to reduce state labor costs by almost $11 million in the next fiscal year.
Last January, officials predicted that as many as 300 state employees might be laid off. But under the new plan, this number will be drastically reduced.
Human Resources commissioner Mari Beth Spellman says the goal is to achieve the full labor savings in next year's budget, while laying off as few state employees as possible.
The plan includes a wage freeze for many non-union employees, a reduction in temporary workers and the elimination of roughly 100 vacant positions.
Spellman says the proposal also contains an incentive program for state employees who are eligible for retirement. There are about 1,000 people in this category but not all of them will be given this option at this time.
"It would be capped at 300 employees,” Spellman says. “If we had more employees than that apply for the incentive there would be a lottery system that would be utilized to take that number to 300."
In the end, Human Resources commissioner Mari Beth Spellman expects that fewer than 50 employees will be laid off and some will be given the chance to be rehired.
If 300 state employees accept the incentive retirement package, Spellman says as many as 225 of these jobs will be eliminated.
In the end, Spellman expects that fewer than 50 employees will be laid off and some will be given the chance to be rehired. That's because the 2016 budget includes 40 new positions and there are other openings throughout state government.
"They can remain on that re-employment list for up to two years, and it gives them priority over other applicants for rehiring in state government,” says Spellman. “And we've found a lot of employees actually do find themselves being offered positions within a fairly short time frame."
Steve Howard, the executive director of the Vermont State Employees Union, thinks the new plan is headed in the right direction.
"I certainly think that the position we're in now is a lot better than the position we would have been in had the governor's original budget been adopted." - Steve Howard, Vermont State Employees Union executive director
"I certainly think that the position we're in now is a lot better than the position we would have been in had the governor's original budget been adopted,” Howard says.
But Howard says it won't be possible to get these kinds of savings from the state's labor contract next winter.
"It's really time to start approaching this from the perspective of Vermont's need for significant restructuring of the tax code, rather than just looking at it as a spending issue,” Howard says. “This is a revenue problem, not a spending problem."
The Shumlin administration hopes to release the details of its employment package by the end of the week.