Legislative budget writers this morning reviewed Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal to trim more than 400 positions from the state payroll, most of which already are vacant. Wayne Hammon, Otter’s budget chief, presented a report showing a total reduction of 463, including 379 positions that already are vacant. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, “I think on the face of it, it looks quite good if we’re able to pare down the number of employees in the public sector, but … there are instances where paring down the employees in the public sector has an impact on the private sector that is negative as well.” Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, JFAC co-chair, responded, “Remember for two budget cycles we have made reductions. … The agencies have used these vacancies to keep their doors open. … What has been done has been done - we’re just now catching up.”
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the other JFAC co-chair, noted that in many cases, the money for the vacant positions has been reverted back out of the agencies’ budgets, but the authorization for the position remains. “It makes government look bigger than it already is,” he said. The biggest proposed reductions in positions are at colleges and universities, down by 176; Parks & Rec, down 165; Labor, down 48; and Health & Welfare, down 43.