Local Politics

Laying off state workers not easy budget fix

Posted December 8, 2010 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2010 6:25 p.m. EST

State budget

Downsizing could likely be part of a strategy that Gov. Beverly Perdue will announce Thursday to help balance the state budget.

Although it’s unclear what Perdue’s plan will call for, the new Republican majority in the General Assembly has said new taxes won’t be part of the solution.

With a $3 billion to $4 billion deficit in the state budget, many observers think job cuts are unavoidable.

“I don't see any way for the governor and legislature to reach that amount without having to lay off people,” Raleigh attorney Jack Nichols said Wednesday. “I just don't see how it's possible.”

Nichols, who specializes in employment law, advises all state workers to know their employment rights. He says most state workers enjoy protections that private-sector employees do not have.

“You have to draw up a defensible (reduction in force) plan so that, when attorneys like me and other ones challenge it, it's defensible,” Nichols said.

The state's guidelines for reductions in force show the type of job plays a role, along with seniority, race and gender under affirmative action.

Employees who are laid off can appeal, and long-serving workers get first crack at new jobs.

“If you've been a state employee for 10 years, then you're entitled to priority re-employment,” Nichols said.

Whatever the financial realities, State Employees Association of North Carolina President Charles Johnson argues that pushing state workers to the unemployment line doesn't make sense.

He believes savings and efficiencies must come before any layoffs.

“You can't just downsize the state and say, ‘OK, this is going to work. Cut 25 to 30 percent of state workers, and this will fix it,’” Johnson said. “That's not going to fix it.”