by mark ballard
Capitol news bureau
September 19, 2012
The number of state government employees has dropped about 15 percent since 2008, according to statistics released Monday by the state Department of Civil Service.
The total number of taxpayer-paid employee positions dropped from 100,473 on July 2, 2008, to 84,863 as of Sept. 7, including political appointees and higher education workers, according to the state employment report.
That’s actual people, some of whom retired or left state government employment, said Lindsay Ruiz de Chavez, spokeswoman for the state Civil Service Department.
In the same general time period, state government eliminated 4,537 state classified positions, from which 2,373 people lost their jobs, the report stated.
Civil Service counted 51,087 classified state employees on Sept. 7 — down 17 percent or 10,506 since July 2008 — while the number of unclassified employees stood at 33,503, which was down 5,377 employees or 13.8 percent during the past four years, according to the report.
During the first two months of the new fiscal year — since July 1 — the state Civil Service Department counted the elimination of 448 state government positions, which led to 173 people being laid off. The largest job loss since July 1 was at Forcht-Wade Correctional Center, near Shreveport.
Hiring and firing classified employees, whose situation is set up to protect them from politics, requires adherence to a complicated procedure overseen by the Civil Service agency.
Unclassified workers, however, are appointed to their jobs by political officials and can be hired and fired more easily. Civil Service does not track unclassified employee layoffs because they are “at-will” employees, meaning they can be fired without cause.
“We’ve tried to reduce the size of state government and not raise taxes,” Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said Monday. “And we think we’re on the right track.”
State government was too big to be sustainable, he said.
“We’re going to continue to look at the total head count,” he said.
Rainwater said the administration reduced 6,284 appropriated state government positions — both classified and unclassified — for fiscal year 2013, which began July 1. By his count, there are 16,165 fewer state government jobs since 2008, he said.
Rainwater, who is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief financial officer, said his office looks for opportunities in every agency to analyze state government jobs to make sure those functions are still relevant and that the services are provided efficiently.
Rainwater disputes arguments by union leaders that the cuts, many in rural areas, harm the local economies. Other jobs are available in those regions, he said.
“They’re disrupting the families as well as cutting the services,” said Ed Parker, field staff representative for the Baton Rouge area, Council 17 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The salaries paid state employees in some areas of the state provide the money used to buy goods and services of local businesses, he said.
“He’s laying off the people off who are actually providing the services,” Parker said, adding that the services being eliminated are used by poor people.
Parker said the job actions by the Jindal administration are helping to increase members to his union.
“People are mad, they’re angry and they want to do something,” he said.