(Host) The Douglas Administration says it can eliminate 150 positions in state government without harming programs for the public.
But the state employees union disagrees. They say state workers will be forced to do more with less, and that some services will be affected.
VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Last November, the administration said the state will save money by not filling positions when employees retire or leave.
Officials have now provided details on the first wave of cuts. No one is being laid off in this round, and state government expects to save around $9 million.
Linda McIntire is deputy administration secretary. She says the goal is to cut the workforce without affecting services.
(McIntire) For many of these positions, and I don’t exactly know the number, they had been vacant, although funded for a period of time. So obviously the department and agencies had been able to do their work without a person in that position.
(Dillon) But the Vermont State Employees Association – the union that represents state workers – says the public will see the impact.
Michael Casey is interim director of the union.
(Casey) It’s just not realistic to expect that existing employees who already had a full workload are going to be able to absorb these additional duties. It’s not going to happen.
(Dillon) Casey said the state has eliminated a health outreach specialist, who was assigned to help low income women get mammograms and other health services.
(Casey) I think there used to be six of these positions, over time that’s been whittled down to
I believe three now. And I think there’s no way that’s not going to have an impact as far as getting people in early to detect issues.
(Dillon) Casey says his members are going through the list now to see what specific programs will be affected. Other examples include a state forester whose job was in part to provide wood to low income people for heat. That position was eliminated, as was a human services aide who drove foster children to appointments.
(Casey) These are people who would provide the legwork, these are the people who would actually have the initial contact, take the information from the public in deciding which services to provide them.
(Dillon) But Linda McIntire, of the Douglas Administration, says office automation and technology allows government to be more efficient. So she thinks the impact will be minimal.
(McIntire) It’s being smart about using that technology, and really taking the opportunity to step back and look at your organization and saying if I had to do it all over again, would there be a different way of doing it.
(Dillon) For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.