Bredesen offers state jobs buyout

On May 7, 2008, in News 2008, by Mark Norris

Governor to cut 2,000 positions, remove new education funds By Richard Locker, CommercialAppeal.com May 7, 2008 NASHVILLE — Citing record declines in state revenue, Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed a voluntary state-employee buyout incentive Wednesday with a goal of cutting 2,011 jobs by mid-summer. Also on the chopping block: $25 million to add 250 new pre-kindergarten […]

Governor to cut 2,000 positions, remove new education funds

By Richard Locker, CommercialAppeal.com
May 7, 2008

NASHVILLE — Citing record declines in state revenue, Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed a voluntary state-employee buyout incentive Wednesday with a goal of cutting 2,011 jobs by mid-summer.

Also on the chopping block: $25 million to add 250 new pre-kindergarten classes across the state, $86.5 million in new money for K-12 public education and almost every other budget increase for new programs and existing expansions he proposed in February in his budget plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

If the General Assembly approves the revised budget as expected next week, K-12 schools will still get an $84 million increase for inflationary and enrollment increases. The extra $86.5 million to be deferred is the second installment of “BEP 2.0” — a revision and expansion of the basic funding formula for schools approved in 2007.

Also safe, officials said later, is $12 million to expand home- and community-based services for the elderly as alternatives to nursing homes.

Bredesen will cut $55 million from higher education’s base budget, plus $23 million he had proposed for higher-education pay raises. He had earlier said a 2 percent pay raise for all other state employees and teachers would be eliminated.

Despite the cuts, Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director Richard Rhoda said his group is “still committed to staying under a 10 percent increase for in-state undergraduate tuition. Out-of-state, graduate, and professional may be more. It will be a difficult year, but in the interest of student access, it really is important to keep tuition increases as low as possible.”

In total, Bredesen will present lawmakers with a new fiscal year 2008-09 budget Monday that is $468 million less than the original budget he sent them in February. The 5 percent cut in executive branch positions would save $64 million of that.

The Department of Finance and Administration was unable to immediately provide information on the number of employees potentially affected in Shelby County.

Details of the buyout — including the dollar amount of the incentive — are still being worked out but likely include a cash payment based on years of service. Under consideration is extending health benefits for a time after departure.

The governor warned that if the buyout doesn’t produce enough departures, he would move to layoffs. The 2,011 job cuts will come from executive branch agencies and departments, although not all will be treated the same because of their varying missions. Corrections officers, for example, will not be affected, Bredesen said.

He said the state has revenue records back to 1961 that show the decline in tax revenue last month compared to April 2007 was the biggest such decline. And January-through-March revenue compared to the first quarter of 2007 was the third-largest quarterly decline on record.

Tennessee State Employees Association leaders said they are pleased the governor is proposing a voluntary buyout instead of involuntary layoffs.

“It is our hope that the legislature adopts the plan for voluntary buyouts and not forced, involuntary layoffs,” TSEA President Zoyle Jones said.

Republicans leaders in the legislature were generally supportive.

“I’m stoic about the reality as presented by the governor and hopeful there will be at least that many people ready to retire and willing to do so,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville.

On the chopping block

2,011 state jobs

$25 million to add 250 public pre-kindergarten classes

$86.5 million in new money for K-12 schools under “BEP 2.0” (but schools will get $83million in new money for inflationary and enrollment increases)

$55 million in cuts for higher education, plus $23 million previously planned for higher-education pay raises.