Earlier today, news broke that the state’s budget deficit – previously estimated at just over 5 billion dollars for the biennium – has exploded to up to $6.5 billion. In the wake of that news, Governor Jim Doyle announced his plans to close the new budget deficit with layoffs and furloughs of state employees:

Gov. Jim Doyle said Thursday the budget deficit has exploded to up to $6.5 billion – a historic gap he wants to fix by laying off hundreds, furloughing all state workers for 16 days, rescinding 2% pay raises for some workers and deeper cuts in aid to schools and local governments.

In addition to the 8 day per year furloughs for the state employees who are fortunate enough to keep their jobs, Gov. Doyle also wants those employees to take a pay cut:

The state will ask union members to reopen contract negotiations to achieve a similar 2% in payroll savings, or about $36 million a year. If the union doesn’t negotiate the pay cut, the state would need to lay off about 400 workers over the next two years.

What the Journal Sentinel’s article doesn’t mention is the fact that the 8 unpaid furlough days state employees will be forced to take is the equivalent of a 2 percent pay cut, so in addition to the 2 percent cut employees would take from the unpaid furlough days, Gov. Doyle wants another 2 percent in pay cuts.

While Gov. Doyle’s plan to cut state jobs and mandate unpaid days off for state employees may be cheered by many – including more than a few conservatives – as Dan Cody points out, it’s important to remember that state employees, while quick to be demonized by many on the right, have families to feed and bills to pay just like any other citizen. By and large the vast majority of state employees I’ve met are good, hardworking people who do the jobs they do not just for the pay and benefits, but because they’re committed to doing their part to make this state a better place to live, play, work, and raise a family.

So before you cheer the governor’s plan to lay off some state employees and cut pay for others, just remember how you’d feel if you were in the same situation.

NOTE: Edited to include a link.

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28 Responses to Doyle orders furloughs of state employees

  1. forgotmyscreenname says:

    I don’t think the fact that state employees are hard-working or have families to feed is really the issue. The same thing, if not worse, is happening in the private sector. If people aren’t losing there jobs, many are having to forgo pay raises, endure pay cuts, or work fewer hours to keep the business afloat. Government employees don’t have to worry about the ‘company’ folding, but most years usually benefit from generous raises, a great pension, and ‘free’ health care. Why shouldn’t they have to share in the pain like everyone else now that times are bad?

    Also, what else do you suggest Doyle do? He’s already raised taxes. It’s time for government to cut back.

  2. KC says:

    Most city employees that are in danger of being laid off are not in managerial positions. They are the grunts who are outside everyday in all types of weather fixing sewers, water main breaks..etc. They live in middle class neighborhoods and are by no means “very comfortable” financially like those in private sectors who have already endured pay decreases. They have families to support, food to buy and bills to pay. The answer to our deficit problem is not eliminating jobs of the lower middle class. Our economy will only get worse and people will be literally fighting to survive.

  3. Rich says:

    Gov Doyle just got a whole buncha respect from me for making the tough call. And very recently Pres Obama requested $17B in budget cuts. THESE are the tough decisions that MUST be made sooner rather than later. We can’t just take from the rich and give to the poor and expect that to be THE answer.

    AND none of us can afford to have politicians that just spend spend spend in order to get re-elected. We need politicians that are willing to make the tough call.

    Cuts are needed. It’s about time.

    (But real lasting cuts of entitlement programs that don’t work are what’s really needed, but that’s a whole nuther issue.)

  4. Anne says:

    As a state employee, I don’t have a problem with taking the days off. It sucks, yes, but I’ll deal with it. I am mad however, because there will be very little savings from doing this. The adminitrative and logistical nightmare (which means more hours for me, unpaid, as I am basically salary) is going to eat up a lot of those savings. I think someone is just trying to get reelected next year and He lost my vote.

  5. Rich says:

    “I am mad however, because there will be very little savings from doing this.”

    Anne, You just made a great arguement for even deeper cuts 🙂

  6. Zach W says:

    Anne, I don’t have a problem with the days off either; my wife and kids and I will find a way to make up that lost pay. However, I’m concerned about the dangerous precedent that will be set if Gov. Doyle gets his way and our union contracts are reopened.

    Rich, as to your points about the cuts that are being made, I’d love to hear specific jobs you’d like to see cut. How many corrections officers, nurses, social workers, and probation & parole agents would you like to see cut?

  7. Just Mee says:

    “…how you’d feel if you were in the same situation.”

    In that I do not have nearly the retirement benefit of these people.

    In that I do not receive the vacation / medical / dental benefit that these people receive.

    In that I pay the wages these people receive.

    In that I took a pay cut.

    In that I was (then) laid-off.

    Hooray. Fire them now.

  8. Zach W says:

    JM, feel free to apply to work in one of our state’s fine correctional institutions, since you seem to think corrections officers are so expendable.

  9. JJ says:

    KC – seriously? Do you think that no middle-class, hard-working, just trying to get by people in the private sector have gotten laid off, furloughed, or pay freezes?

    How can you believe that everyone in the private sector is “very comfortable” and can afford these types of cuts any more than the state workers?

    Rich – considering Doyle has increased budget spending by 10%, these cuts don’t even go back to the former levels… not really such hard choices he’s making. But for some reason, reducing an increase is considered a cut in government speak. The $17B Obama has proposed cutting is miniscule – less than 1/2 of 1% of the overall budget. Programs slated to be cut so far – payments to families of peace officers killed in the line of duty, the DC school vouchers, and equipment to scan for nuclear material at ports. They want to get real on cutting spending – how about getting rid of the entire Department of Agriculture and paying some farmers to not farm and corporate farmers subsidies? Just a thought

  10. Gee says:

    I’m just glad to have a job, with half of my family laid off — but much more needs to be known. For those of us state employees who work only part of the year, nine months, will our furloughs be prorated to six days a year instead of eight?

    And if you’re a unionized state employee, at least you got your raise this year and got it every year. Others of us state employees who are barred by law from collective bargaining and unionizing have not had raises for two years, just had this year’s raise cancelled, and will not get raises for the next two years, Doyle decrees.
    And we also will be paying even more for our health insurance (and it has soared to incredible sums already).

    So our incomes will be at least five percent less next year — and the state is the largest employer in the state, so keep in mind that this move inevitably means continued declines in income tax revenues for the state for the next three years. This decision may be unavoidable, in a state that still protects industries long gone so won’t raise beer taxes for more than forty years. But the largest group of employees in the state just took a hit that will mean more income taxes will have to come from the rest of the residents.

    It’s a vicious circle that won’t help Wisconsin dig out from this mess any time soon to get our kids back to work. We’ll keep helping them, but it’s delaying our retirements — at 66 and 60 — so they’ll have to be helping us later. And we had hoped to retire to give our jobs to your kids.

  11. Zach W says:

    Well said, Gee.

    You raised a good point about the fact that state employees are taxpayers and consumers too, and cutting their incomes will likely resort in decreased spending by those folks. When you’re talking about 60+ thousand state employees, that’s a big group of people who’ll be earning and spending less.

  12. Kymb says:

    All state employees are not equal. My classification is mostly women and we have not received the same level of raises as others. We went about 10 years with increases below the cost of living increases and are generally paid less than others doing our same jobs. My agency already has more than a 30% vacancy rate from all the freezes.

    We are all doing lots more than our normal jobs to cover all the vacancies. Doyle runs our agency through political appointees who micro-manage even the most mundane tasks. A co-worker and I recently estimated the cost of a very minor decision to be about $100,000 when you add up all the bigwig salaries and time spent at useless, unproductive meetings and the wages of all the workers who have to clean up the fall out from such horrible management.

    Doyle has wasted employee productivity through his political loyalist micro managing. If there isn’t a fix to the political toadie mode of running agencies the work of the people will not be safely completed.

    I will never cast another vote for Doyle. He’s handing the Gov’s office to Neumann or Walker on a silver platter. Yikes!

  13. Zach W says:

    Kymb, I think the problems you outlined are pretty standard no matter what state agency a person might work for.

  14. Rich says:

    “Rich, … I’d love to hear specific jobs you’d like to see cut. How many corrections officers, nurses, social workers, and probation & parole agents would you like to see cut?”

    Remeber Ross Perot’s answer to a similar “specific” question? Well I can’t remember it verbatim either, but what I do recall is that he admitted that he was not an expert on tactical level details in every department in government. Insteed, he claimed to be talented in strategy and finding the experts that can get down to the specifics. And most importanly! he had the political WILL to actually make the cuts.

    So in similar fashion my answer would be, “I don’t know. But I bet that someone in Corrections does know. And every other department should be similarly audited. And the audit reccomendations should be addressed.”

    Based on the state and federal deficits, IMHO cuts are needed. And it’s about time that government heads in that direction.

  15. JM says:

    6.5 Billion? OMG! What have Doyle and other legislators been doing down there? Buying stock in nap mats? Do they think that you can push an “automatic pilot button” at all of the state-run power plants, while staff is on furlough? Try pulling ash, shoveling coal, responding to load demands, and alarms for an entire university and hospital with less than adequate staffing, and see what you get. Safety first I say. Why not cut the pay that legislators get for several weeks instead of the hard working middle class state employees.

  16. Zach W says:

    “Safety first I say.”

    That’s what I say too, JM, and cutting corrections officers and probation & parole agents (just to name a couple of positions that could see layoffs) will only serve to jeopardize public safety.

  17. NiceJobDoyle says:

    The State has over 40 Limited Term Employees (part time) making anywhere from $120 to $300 per hour. Why does the State have a part time dental consultant making $300/hr?

    Now the State will pay $40 million of the proposed $51 million for a 4.5 mile western Waukesha bypass, a project that has been on the table since the 1950s. It waited 60 years why can’t it wait another 2?

  18. Zach W says:

    NJD, those LTE’s you cited are a perfect example of what’s wrong with how the state chooses to do business. Instead of filling those positions with qualified state employees who’d probably be much cheaper, managers and administrators instead choose to fill them with private “consultants” who end up costing the state more.

    Let’s cut those folks and their high pay, instead of cutting hardworking state employees.

  19. Rich says:

    Consultants often may appear expensive in the short run. But in reality, they are often cheaper in the long run.

    (OBTW, I’m an MBA, HR Manager that wrote my masters thesis on the cost effectiveness of consultants.)

    For example: It’s much better to contract out the Marquette Interchange project instead of filling those positions with qualified state employees who’d probably be much cheaper in the short term, but would cost the state a ton if they stayed on the books forever.

    Contractors and consultants are basically paid to go away at the end of their contract. That can be very valuable to the State.

  20. Tranktn says:

    I work corrections in this lovely state. I do not see how furloughs in a 24 hour care facility will help at all. No matter who on what shift takes any of the 8 unpaid days off, there will be someone making time and a half because of it. This will only cost the state MORE money in the long run. However if they were to cut back on certain unnecessary programs within the institutions, i could see a very minute improvement.

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