August 31, 2015
In Wake Of Well-Documented Department And Agency Safety/Staffing Concerns, State Seems Content To Ignore Worker’s Warnings.
Last week, the State circulated a memo to Department and Agency heads, ordering them to level-fund their FY2017 budget requests. An August 27 Times Argus story on the memo quotes Secretary of the Administration Justin Johnson writing, “Although Vermont’s revenues are projected to increase moderately for the fiscal year, we continue to experience fiscal pressures that will make it challenging to craft a responsible budget within available revenue.” In an additional directive, Johnson reminds about the impending retirement of 300 state workers to address an FY2016 budget hole, warning management that only 25% of those jobs are being backfilled and that “This may require your agency or department to scale down or eliminate programs that cannot operate without the necessary personnel. The final decision on which positions will be refilled rests with the secretary of administration.”
Needless to say, the State is apparently digging in and not budging from its tired old approach to addressing Vermont’s annual budget shortfalls, seemingly committed, once again, to rely on cuts to public services and state employees to balance the budget. With safety and staffing concerns very fresh on the minds of thousands of state employees across Vermont, the State’s announcement was quickly blasted by VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard.
“In some places, and increasingly across state government, we’re reaching our breaking point,” Howard tells the Argus. “There is a massive need for investment in building security, in additional staffing to make sure that patients and children and veterans are safe, and the state employees that take care of them are safe.”
Howard adds that VSEA will “bring forth the experts who run state government on the front lines” to testify about the needs within state government when lawmakers return to Montpelier in January.
“I want them to look social workers in the face and say, ‘Yes we know you need 40 to 60 additional case managers to keep children safe but we’re going to walk away from that.”
Howard also advocates for the State to explore new ideas to generate revenue for Vermont.
[With its announcement this week, the State is telling Vermonters,] “We’re going to protect the wealthiest people in the state from paying one cent more.” The [State] needs “a little dose of reality.”
Here We Go Again. No Time Like The Present To Begin Lobbying Your Lawmakers Against State’s Directive
With the State’s announcement this week, every VSEA member is urged to begin contacting your local lawmakers now to lobby to protect our public services and the men and women who provide by ensuring proper staffing levels and doing everything possible to keep all employees safe while at work. You can also remind them—once again—that there other ways to address budget deficits. With all that’s happened recently, VSEA members; voices are important and do matter.
VSEA members are also urged to educate every announced candidate for elected office about the situation where you work and how the State’s cuts, cuts and more cuts approach is impacting you and you co-workers.
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