BOISE – Dozens of Idaho state employees lost their jobs in the past month as a result of midyear state budget holdbacks imposed in late September. More cuts are coming.
Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to impose varying budget cuts at different agencies meant some were hit harder than others with layoffs. Agencies facing 7.5 percent cuts included the Department of Water Resources, which laid off 19 workers this month; the Department of Environmental Quality, which let 10 people go and imposed additional furloughs on all remaining employees; the Department of Parks and Recreation, which cut its seasonal staff by 25 percent; and the Department of Lands, which laid off three people in Boise and one in Coeur d’Alene, on top of four range managers it laid off in July.
“It’s tough times for everybody,” said Lands Department Director George Bacon. “Although we’re feeling pain, others have felt worse.”
Otter didn’t specify numbers of layoffs when he imposed the budget cuts, leaving that up to each agency. The information is beginning to filter out; it won’t be evident in the state’s payroll system for several more weeks.
The layoffs are on top of vacant positions going unfilled.
Otter, asked what he’d say to those employees who are being laid off, said, “I’m saying, ‘We don’t have the money to keep you. … Sorry – wish there was something else we could do.”
Otter said the budget crunch means costs must be cut. That might mean combining some functions between agencies, he said, as well as rethinking staffing. He said he favors reducing part-time positions and combining those into full-time jobs to save on benefit costs.
But overall, the governor said, the state may have to rethink anything it’s doing that’s not required by law – and some state laws may need to be changed to allow more cuts.
“We’re looking at absolutely everything,” Otter said.