Guinn plays state staff shuffle
CARSON CITY – Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn says he’ll keep nearly 1,400 jobs in state government unfilled – with some exceptions – during a top-to-bottom review of government services.
”We want to do all we can to show we have efficiency in government,” Guinn said. ”I’m not going to go out and fill these slots unless staff can tell me they truly need them.”
The 1,359 vacant state jobs as of Oct. 1 represent 9.2 percent of the state’s 14,839 full-time employees. The list doesn’t include the University and Community College System of Nevada or the Employers Insurance Co. of Nevada, the state workers’ compensation agency that is converting to private operation.
Most vacancies have come through attrition, when employees leave and the positions remain unfilled for a time, and because some new positions authorized by the 1999 Legislature have yet to be filled.
But some vacancies are related to other issues, such as recruitment problems within the Department of Prisons.
The governor said exceptions are being made for agencies that must respond to changing demands in between Nevada’s every-other-year legislative sessions.
For example, Guinn said a mail-in motor vehicle registration system established in 1996 has become so popular the 11 employees running the program couldn’t keep up with demand.
”The people in that program were working hard, but they were falling behind,” he said. ”We moved more people into that program, and now the processing time is much shorter.”
Lawmakers and others say they are willing to look at any hiring proposals Guinn offers.
”The governor is in the driver’s seat on a day-to-day basis, and I don’t believe the Legislature should micromanage each agency,” said Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-North Las Vegas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. ”I wouldn’t want to give the governor a blank check, but I’m willing to look at any proposal he makes.”
Bob Gagnier, executive director of the State of Nevada Employees Association, said he will withhold judgment on any hiring policy changes until he sees specifics.
”I could see where a director might leave some lower-level positions vacant and make more work for those who remain, and then use the savings for salary increases for higher-ups,” he said. ”Any flexibility proposals will need a lot of study. Government is not the same as private industry. Those who say government should be run like a private business must have flunked their civics course.”
In addition to reviewing need, Guinn said, he is keeping the large number of positions vacant for other reasons as well.
For example, several hundred employees with the Employers Insurance Co. of Nevada, the state run workers’ compensation program, have been seeking jobs with other state agencies prior to the workers’ compensation system going private on Jan. 1. Those employees have had top priority for placement for open jobs in other state agencies.
Additionally, the two-year budget approved by the 1999 Legislature leaves little or no surplus for potential financial emergencies. Guinn said the salary savings from keeping some jobs unfilled will provide a cushion.
Gagnier said he has heard some concerns expressed by employees about unfilled positions, particularly in the areas of mental health and welfare.
Charlotte Crawford, director of the Department of Human Resources, said the existing budget system makes it difficult for her agency to be flexible in delivery of services to the public.
”I have no ability to move resources across budget boundaries or divisional boundaries,” she said.
For example, when the Welfare Division’s computer system, NOMADS, caused problems, moving staff members from other areas of the agency could have helped transfer thousands of case files into the new system, Crawford said.