Gibbons seeks state job changes |

Gibbons seeks state job changes

Associated Press

Gov. Jim Gibbons plans to ask Nevada lawmakers for major changes in the state’s methods for laying off workers, to make it cheaper and give officials more control over which workers get the ax.

The governor’s budget proposes layoffs for only 370 workers, but that decision wasn’t made just to keep unemployment lines from growing. As Gibbons’ staff considered options to balance the budget, more layoffs were discussed ” but there were significant obstacles.

Laying off workers is often expensive in the short term because state law requires taxpayers to contribute to departing employees’ retirement savings. Also, layoff rules don’t allow managers to keep the best employees, according to Josh Hicks, Gibbons’ chief of staff.

When layoffs are ordered, government workers with more seniority are protected from being laid off if there is a worker in the job with less seniority.

“There’s an inflexibility in the system that makes it difficult to quickly respond to budget crises,” Hicks said, adding that Gibbons wants government to run more like a business and give department heads authority to choose which workers are laid off.

That would be a major change in the state’s classified employee system, which strictly controls how employees are fired or let go in order to prevent cronies from getting jobs or enemies from being punished for political reasons.

The proposed changes will meet stiff opposition from Democrats who control the Legislature and from the state employees’ union.

“It’s very clear since this governor took over, he has a vendetta against state employees,” said Dennis Mallory of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents many classified state workers.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said Gibbons’ proposal will go nowhere. To make a change that dramatic would require a popular governor armed with detailed studies about the need, she said.