Questions remain for how budget will affect state workersby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The budget bills Gov. Mark Dayton signed Wednesday will likely translate to reduced funding to some departments and about a 6 percent headcount reduction among employees whose jobs are funded by state dollars.
That level of reduction lines up with the governor's previous recommendations.
However, unanswered questions remain about what the approved budget means for state employees and the services they deliver to Minnesotans.
Officials from the two big unions that represent most of the state's 35,000 employees say they're pleased the shutdown is over and their members can get back to work, but they're still unsure how the budget will affect state employees.
"The state government finance bill does not specify a cut in the state workforce," said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, which represents 18,000 state employees.
However, Seide expects a 6 percent workforce among some 14,000 state employees whose jobs are funded by state dollars. That would be a loss of about 770 state jobs. It could be carried out relatively painlessly. About 850 state workers retire yearly, since 2006.
Seide is concerned cuts could be buried in departmental budgets, especially the budget of the Department of Human Services.
"We're very concerned about the DHS budget," Seide said. "We are combing through it. We are worried about layoffs of workers and the lack of delivery of services in those cases."
The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees agrees the reduction in overall workforce seems to be in line with previous proposals by Dayton. But union officials will look closely at the budget "to determine its impact on MAPE members."
"It's important for us to review the bills and then meet with the agencies to really get the full scope of what could be happening going forward to state employees, said Leslie Sandberg, MAPE spokeswoman. "Right now, though, we don't have a good read on it because it's too soon to tell."
Republicans pushed for a 15 percent cut to the state workforce, but say this budget could be a good start toward a larger reduction.
"We had proposed a slightly larger reduction, going to 2015. It was '15 by 15.'" said David Hann, Republican chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. "The 6 percent is just in the current budget period. I'm not so sure there is huge difference in the effect of this thing."
The budget includes measures that could lead to further cuts to government programs. A sunset commission will review state agencies to determine whether their necessity and adequate performance. There's also a pay-for-performance pilot program, and a program to reward state employees who propose up with money-saving ideas.
However, Gov. Dayton is clear that there will be no back pay for state employees who were laid off.
How the legislation will play out is still under review by those who will implement the budget, and it's still too early to account for how job cuts will be distributed among state agencies and departments, said John Pollard, spokesman for the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget.
"We're still working though the details, agency by agency, of what these budgets mean and how they'll be implemented. Obviously, you don't determine those over night. But it is a process by which the budgets will be implemented," she said.
Editor's note: After this story was published, questions surfaced about the AFSCME estimate that a 6 percent cut in the state workforce would be a loss of about 770 jobs. While this story accurately reported Eliot Seide's comments, 6 percent of a total state workforce of some 35,000 amounts to 2,100 positions. AFSCME's Jennifer Munt subsequently explained that Seide's calculation was limited to some 14,000 jobs funded by state revenue.
"They are the only state employees whose salaries and benefits affect the budget. The others are funded through federal dollars and other sources," Munt said.
Mathematically, 770 represents 5.5 percent of 14,000.
A Dayton administration spokeswoman indicated Friday that while the governor has consistently spoken about a 6 percent reduction, it's unclear which employees would be affected by such a cut, and therefore how many positions could be eliminated.