OPEA Takes Lead in Protecting State Jobs

OPEA called a meeting recently with legislative leaders to discuss concerns about another round of 5 percent budget cuts and the effect those cuts will have on agencies and employees during an already lean year.

OPEA met with Speaker of the House Chris Benge before meeting with President Pro-Tempore Glenn Coffee.

“Many agencies had already been forced to cut during the general appropriations process,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “OPEA has taken the lead in protecting state employee’s jobs and working with leadership to find ways to save.”

In the recent meetings between OPEA staffers and Coffee over state budget concerns, Coffee indicated there may not be a need for a special session. According to OPEA staff, the 5 percent cuts will be realized by agencies for the remainder of the year with legislative leadership believing that if the current budget trend holds, a shortfall of $200-300 million dollars is manageable without a special session. “If the budget picture worsens before February, they may have to come back in to take care of the holes,” said Zearley. “Senator Coffee was very concerned about state employees and believes they should hold the line and not panic. He indicated that widespread furloughs and RIF’s are not imminent and help will come from stimulus dollars and possibly the Rainy Day Fund when the legislature comes back into session.”

OPEA is concerned with rising costs for state agencies such as fuel, utilities and contract labor. “While battling these increased costs, agencies are also being confronted with increased demands for services as a result of the economic downturn and the loss of jobs,” Zearley said. “Many agencies are already operating with a number of unfilled vacancies and are being hard pressed to keep up with the demand. As additional budget numbers become available, we are hoping with everyone else that the economic picture improves.

“Senator Coffee said he is relying heavily on OPEA to continue to keep him informed on the situation on the ground,” Zearley continued. “State employees have ideas about cost savings along with the many ideas OPEA has already proposed, many of which have been implemented or are being looked at.”

OPEA continues to collect cost savings suggestions from state employees. If you have a suggestion you would like to contribute, please forward it to Trish Frazier at tfrazier@opea.org.

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