State vacancies saving $140 million a year
Director of Administration Andrew Clinger says he’s getting tired of people saying the state hasn’t done anything about the budget crisis.
“They say we haven’t done anything because there haven’t been layoffs,” he said Wednesday.
In fact, Clinger said, the Gibbons administration and his office started holding positions and cutting back in September 2007.
“The agencies have done a real good job of cutting and us starting early has helped us avoid layoffs,” he said.
As a result, Personnel Director Teresa Thienhaus said, there are 2,687 vacant positions in state service right now ” not counting the University System. That is 13 percent of the 20,800 total authorized positions in state service.
At an average pay of $55,403 per worker, that comes to $148.8 million a year in savings which Clinger said is easily the biggest item in the list of reductions the state has made to cut spending by state agencies.
Analysts point out that, as a side note, that the average pay is skewed upward by the large number of lawyers and the medical professionals the state employs. The average classified worker, they said, makes significantly less.
Clinger also said many of those positions aren’t coming back.
“There’s a real chance those vacant positions will be eliminated in the next biennium,” he said.
Clinger and Thienhaus both said agency directors have the power to fill vacancies if they determine a job is necessary. Clinger said, however, the cabinet members have been warned not to overdo it.
“I told them I don’t want them filling a position we’re going to have to lay off later, and we’re watching them very carefully,” he said.
The cuts started a year ago September when the shortfall was estimated at just $120 million for the biennium. That shortfall has since grown to $1.5 billion and forced the state to consume the entire $267 million Rainy Day Fund, eliminate nearly every capital improvement project and hold vacant nearly every empty position whether they were vacated voluntarily or for other reasons.
Thienhaus said to fill a position now, agencies must submit a justification including the reason why filling it is urgent. She said the department head must approve each position before the personnel department will begin recruitment.
Unless the revenue projections change, Clinger has said the state is looking at a budget for the next biennium of up to 34 percent less than the original spending plan approved for this biennium.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.