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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



For now, no more layoffs required

The Douglas administration released its plan Friday to achieve $13.4 million in personnel savings in the current budget year -- and it didn't include any more layoffs.

Earlier this spring, the administration sent layoff notices to more than 100 workers. As a result, 102 are no longer in state employ. In all, the administration has cut 247 positions from state government. That results in $8.45 million in savings -- a big step toward the $13.4 million target the Legislature set in its budget.

The plan spell out how to find the remaining $4.94 million. A big chunk -- $2.5 million -- will come from leaving 122 positions vacant if 325 workers take the retirement incentive offered in the Legislature's budget. Anyone eligible to retire can get cash and insurance benefits for leaving by Sept. 1. About 1,000 workers could qualify, but lawmakers capped the program at 300. Now the administration suggests bumping up the allowable retirements to 325 and increasing the number of job vacancies.

Most people seemed to expect a lot more layoffs would be needed since the union had failed to agree to any pay and benefit cuts. Turns out the retirement program could produce savings sooner than expected. If it doesn't, however, Secretary of Administration Neale Lunderville said layoffs will occur. That should become clear by October.

Another sharp revenue decline could also trigger layoffs -- so no one is out of the woods yet.

The administration also banks on savings from continuing the pay freeze that affect many salaried and all temporary workers. There could begin to be some hard feeling in the workforce as these folks feel the pinch while those in the union bargaining unit get their pay increases as usual. Of course, the salaried personnel tend to be at the higher end of the pay scale.

Most workers have dodged the bullet for now, but who can tell what's to come.

-- Nancy Remsen

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While many workers that receive pay freezes may be at the high end of the scale, the state system creates winners and losers. It leaves many long-time, non-political, hard-working state employees who are designated as exempt without an increase. So if you are an exempt admin assistant, making $35,000 - you have not received a raise twice now. But if you are a classified worker making $50,000 you get a 3+% raise. This absolutely creates hard feelings in the workforce.
So speak to the Governor - he is the one creating this mess!

Jim Douglas has wanted to destroy the union since the day he was elected in 2002.

Every year he tries to do something to hurt them.
Elect Racine so we can find a solution
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