VSEA Executive Director Warns Shumlin Administration That Many State Agencies & Departments Already At Breaking Point. Also Reminds That Worker Safety Must Be Addressed.
“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,” VSEA ExD Steve Howard said.
He added that Shumlin who is not seeking re-election in 2016, sends the message [with his level-fund mandate], “We’re going to protect the wealthiest people in the state from paying one cent more.” The governor needs “a little dose of reality."
and really has for quite a while now…
August 27, 2015 – Times Argus
MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration is telling agency and department heads to prepare for level funding in the next state budget.
Administration Secretary Justin Johnson sent a memo to commissioners and secretaries Tuesday saying that 2017 fiscal year budget instructions are pending, but funding will be limited.
“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,” he wrote.
Johnson said general government costs, including increased employee pay, pension costs and the state’s debt service “will consume a significant portion of revenue growth in FY 2017.”
And the “federal budget process is as dysfunctional as ever,” he said.
That means there is greater demand on state resources, Johnson said. Continued growth in spending on Agency of Human Services programs “continues to pose a challenge for the rest of the state budget,” he wrote.
The state has also worked to reduce the use of “one-time” funding in its budget. Lawmakers and the administration crafted the existing 2016 fiscal year budget that addressed a $113 million budget gap. About $25 million in one-time funds was used.
Another budget gap of at least $50 million is projected for the 2017 fiscal year, driven largely by the state’s Medicaid program.
In a separate budget instruction document from the Department of Management and Finance, agencies and department were reminded that up to 300 state workers are expected to accept a retirement incentive offered by the state as part of an effort to save $10 million in labor costs. Only 25 percent of those positions will be filled.
The reduction in the state workforce may require changes to state programs, or in some cases, elimination of programs, the administration warned.
“This may require your agency or department to scale down or eliminate programs that cannot operate without the necessary personnel,” the instructions said. “The final decision on which positions will be refilled rests with the secretary of administration.”
The Vermont State Employees Association said Wednesday it is already gearing up to push back against the administration’s budget plans.
“In some places, and increasingly across state government, we’re reaching our breaking point,” said Steve Howard, VSEA executive director Steve Howard.
He noted the state has a 33 percent increase in children in the custody of the Department for Children and Families. The state also has need for greater security measures, particularly after the shooting death of Lara Sobel, a DCF caseworker, in Barre earlier this month, Howard said.
“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,” he said.
Howard said the union 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 said.
He added that Shumlin, who is not seeking re-election in 2016, sends the message, “We’re going to protect the wealthiest people in the state from paying one cent more.” The governor needs “a little dose of reality,” he said.
“Gov. Shumlin has got to decide what his legacy is going to be,” Howard said. “Does he preside over that breaking point or does he help?”
Agencies and departments must provide their initial budget plans to the administration by Sept. 25, according to Johnson’s memo.