State News

State workers brace for budget cuts

Posted October 7, 2008

— Gov. Mike Easley said Tuesday that state agencies might have to dig a little deeper soon, given the uncertain economy.

Easley last month called for state agencies to cut their annual budgets by 2 percent, and he said Tuesday he likely will expand those cuts to 3 percent in the face of a slowing economy. He wants to reduce costs by about $700 million so his successor doesn't face a ballooning deficit in January.

"The important thing is (that) I start saving money and reducing costs so that you've got six months under the belt by the time the next governor gets here," Easley said.

Tax collections for the fiscal year that began July 1 were as much as $70 million below projections through August. September figures aren't in yet.

A 3 percent cut to the $21.4 billion state budget would appear to save about $600 million, but the actual savings would be less because public education, Medicaid and student financial aid are exempt from the cuts.

North Carolina's $800 million reserve fund will help cushion the state if tax revenues drop more than than expected, Easley said.

The 55,000 members of the State Employees Association of North Carolina are familiar with lean years in which they receive extra days off or small bonuses in lieu of raises, said Ardis Watkins, legislative affairs director for SEANC.

She added, however, that their anxiety is compounded this year because financial problems with the State Health Plan have prompted talk of higher insurance premiums.

"There's no fat, according to Easley, in the state budget. So what would you cut? You would cut services that taxpayers have been paying for," Watkins said. "I anticipate it will be a year of many challenges."

Joseph Qubain, who has worked for 17 years as an engineer with the state Department of Transportation, said he considers himself lucky in that his wife also works. But he gets defensive for his fellow state workers when it comes to pay raises.

"We understand the situation is not as good as we want it to be, but we cannot balance future state budgets on the backs of state employees," Qubain said.

States from Virginia to New York to California are also predicting serious budget shortfalls this year.

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  • joco cruiser Oct 8, 2008

    The state is directed to cut 3% (soon to be 4%) and the legislators will not curtail their spending one cent. It's the same song every time we turn around.

  • Adelinthe Oct 8, 2008

    So let me understand this, the government is saying the only way out of the current financial situation is to increase consumer spending.

    Then the government does budget cuts and hiring freezes.

    What???

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • whatusay Oct 8, 2008

    Easley says we need a 3% cut in state expenses, that said, pass me another one of these $60.00 hamburgers.

  • NeverSurrender Oct 8, 2008

    "I think I may be the only one that thinks we could get the same affect if we had a 3% increase in productivity!....hey, it's about time state employees had to work under the same guidelines as normal people....you work hard, you get paid, you don't work hard, you get fired!"

    ---

    I've always thought it ironic (and pretty sad) that so much deadwood can survive in a right-to-fire state's employ...

    When I interviewed with a few agencies, you could learn a lot by checking out the people inhabiting the cubes between the front-door and the interviewing room.

    There were a few that looked to be productively busy but the looks on their faces made me wonder if they would have been happier facing a firing squad or getting paroled.

    The majority seemed to be doing anything but being productive...which pretty much explained the first group's demeanour to me.

    All that has ensured that I had no regrets about the job I eventually accepted. :)

  • Dr. Dataclerk Oct 8, 2008

    will be the 'bosses' who get the big money.
    19tarheel75

    I am not worried, I will get my cut. lol

  • 19tarheel75 Oct 8, 2008

    It's ALWAYS the lowly goverment worker who has to bite the bullit. But just you wait, when raises are given out it will be the 'bosses' who get the big money.

  • axepack Oct 8, 2008

    I am also worried about the possible (likely) increase in the premiums for health insurance for state workers, but I don't see anything being done about it. There was a SECC rally in the state government complex, and they were serving Fair Food: fried everything, hot dogs, steak & cheese sandwiches, etc. The better part of the line that was waiting for the food were extremely overweight and obese! I'm sure that does wonders for our health insurance premiums. The fatties getting fatter, and the state is helping them do it.

    Every day I see more and more people chain smoking outside of these same buildings. Do they not care that they are slowly killing themselves? And then they're surprised when they end up with cancer. It's unbelievable how dumb some of these people can be.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Oct 8, 2008

    Many want to whine and blame state employees, but if we fired all of state gov't tomorrow, the economy would crash. Everyone would lose there jobs in a chain reaction. What good would lower taxes do you if you don't have a job?

    BTW, Seeminglyopposed I agree about no services for illegals and thank you for using gov't assistance as intended, for protecting your family through a short term crisis.

  • ladyblue Oct 8, 2008

    I think that Easley should show just cause and start with his salary to be reduced 3% and then all the legislators in Raleigh next. They sure didn't work that hard for all of us.

  • Seeminglyopposed Oct 8, 2008

    I have witness something that I could not believe, I work a retail store that excepts EBT. I could not believe the amount of money the Spanish Community is receiving. You see 1 man, 1 woman, 1 small child and the woman is pregnant and the average balance of their EBT is over $700.00 a month. What are they basing their money on. After my divorce I had two children, no husband and had to rely for help for a couple of months, and was only given 325.00 a month. But I pay taxes. And this is continuous, not one or two but A GREAT DEAL OF THEM. I am totally disgusted, and you say state workers need to be paid less.

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