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July 22, 2014

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37 of 17,000 state workers lose jobs from budget cuts

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AP Photo/Lisa J. Tolda

Gov. Brian Sandoval, right, is joined by legislative leaders Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas to announce a budget agreement Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at the Nevada Legislative Building in Carson City.

Dale Erquiaga

Dale Erquiaga

Ben Kieckhefer

Ben Kieckhefer

A fifth round of budget cuts will take effect today, as the state implements the budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. To hear the chorus of elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, government has been cut to the bone as the Great Recession has dragged on.

But in one respect, the new budget’s effect is slight. Out of the almost 17,000 state employees, only 37 have received layoff notices effective today, the start of the new fiscal year.

State workers have once again largely escaped this recession’s cruelest effect — job loss — with a combination of increased retirements, elimination of vacant positions and cuts to pay and benefits.

The number, although still preliminary, surprised Republicans, Democrats and labor leaders, who expected a higher total.

Although all made it clear they didn’t want to add to Nevada’s already highest-in-the-nation unemployment, some wondered if the heated rhetoric during the legislative session — with some claiming the streets would run red with layoffs unless budget cuts were reversed — matched the actual outcome.

“If this turns out to be another case of ‘the sky is falling,’ I’m going to have a hard time believing anyone until I’m hit by a cloud,” said state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who voted for extending the tax increase.

For those who have lost their jobs, had family members’ work downsized or watched co-workers glumly pack up belongings after meeting with the boss, the layoff has become the defining experience of the recession.

That government employees have, to a large degree, escaped such a fate has set them apart from private-sector workers.

Some of this, of course, is to be expected.

“Government provides an essential safety net,” said Dale Erquiaga, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s senior adviser. “It has to continue at a certain level. We’re different from a company selling goods no one can buy in a recession. Demand for government services goes up in a recession.”

And even during its period of booming growth, Nevada had the fewest public employees per capita; state employees also made significantly less on average than their counterparts in local government.

The state budget will eliminate 665 full-time positions over the next two years, under the budget signed by Sandoval, according to the budget office.

Erquiaga said departments had “done a good job of placing people in other positions.”

He called it a “good outcome that only 37 people are laid off.”

But he said he understood if the public will be more skeptical when the public sector makes dire predictions.

“This has not resulted in mass layoffs as some predicted,” he said, naming specifically higher education and school district officials.

Higher education officials were still tallying numbers Thursday, and wouldn’t have complete figures until next week. The Clark County School District said layoffs will depend on union concessions.

Layoffs are, to be sure, just one measure of the economy’s toll — the stress of high unemployment, a failing housing market, collapsed construction industry and an eroded tourism base.

State workers have over the past two years had to take once-a-month furloughs. They will have to take six unpaid furlough days a year starting today, plus a 2.5 percent pay cut. In addition, they have to pay more toward their pensions, and saw dramatic reductions in health care benefits.

In total, it’s a reduction in take home pay of about 10 percent, according to Vishnu Subramaniam, chief of staff of the AFSCME Local 4041, the state’s largest employee union.

Even where employment is flat, state employees face much higher workloads as people look to government for help.

The state’s Welfare and Supportive Services Division, which gives out Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, had 1,247 workers approved for the upcoming two years, the same number it had this year. But with the numbers seeking assistance growing, the agency projects workers there will have gone from fielding 160 cases per employee to 306.

“Our employees are being asked to do more and more every day,” said Romaine Gilliland, administrator of the division. “With this economy still suffering, they see more clients every day.”

That, he said, has led to higher error rates and the possibility of more fraud. It has also led to the state meeting its deadlines about 85 percent of the time.

“That sounds like a high number, unless you’re one of the families waiting for food stamps,” he said.

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  1. Sharing the pain, are we? Appears, not so much. Face it, 90% is a heck of a lot better than 0%. Meanwhile, the smiles are broad in union offices as their membership numbers remain high and the dues used to back leftist candidates for public office are still pouring in. Win - win - for unions and politicians. Lose - lose - for the public at large and NV taxpayers!

  2. So, now the overpaid public sector knows how the private sector feels when the pay checks are no longer there... negotiated themselves nice pay increases, better health care plans, better retirement/pension plans and negotiated themselves right out of a job... greedy greedy...

  3. And thank you Nevada Supreme Court for forcing the governor to extend the taxes that were about to sunset. This singular act saved the Nevada economy. And I don't hear anybody in business complaining about taxes they were already paying continuing. Unless you are one of those evil NPRI propagandists.

  4. There are certainly MORE than 37 workers that work directly or indirectly (education/police/fire) for the STATE of Nevada, that are losing their jobs! Was this articles meant to "soften" the political blow as the reality of a SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION looms on the horizon?

    How is "Kicking the political can down the road," working, LAWMAKERS?

    All the stalling with 2-party (Good ol' Boy) system bickering left the LAWMAKERS with no time to meaningfully address the Nevada State Constitution laws towards TAX RESTRUCTURING AND REFORM! Nevada has been experiencing economic decline and the way to keep the state flush and functional is by having the TAX REVENUE to do so. Nevada LAWMAKERS failed to effectively deal with state revenue issues and now face a Special Session at taxpayer expense!

    Nevada's TAX revenue laws have virtually gone nearly 100+ years UNCHANGED thanks to the LAWMAKERS kicking the political can down the road, hoping that it would not fall upon them to address during their term of service. Is that the kind of REPRESENTATION that VOTERS expect of elected LAWMAKERS?

    Maybe.

    Remember, in the past 25 years, Nevada has grown from Ghost towns to populations in the millions. Part of those millions are ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS who have a negative impact on the state infrastructure, and the other part are people from everywhere, many who are ILLITERATE and fell asleep in their high school government classes, or are apathetic voters. About 5% are political interests and contributors to LAWMAKERS and a handful of educated citizens. There's your demographics.

    During the last 20 years, Clark County experienced UNSUSTAINABLE and uncontrolled immigration and growth, hit and miss regulation, and expansive corruption in both public and private business sectors. OUCH!

    Nevada LAWMAKERS & GOVERNOR(S) have typically enjoyed careers that goes unresisted by voters or citizens, and they simply "kick the political can down the political road for the next Legislative Session," without addressing any REAL TAX STRUCTURE REFORMS FOR MINING, Gaming/Resorts, and Big Box Stores. Why upset those who contribute directly or indirectly to campaign contributions, right? That is political career suicide.

    During the FINAL HOUR of the Nevada 76th State Legislative Session, LAWMAKERS ushered bills through that there was no public scrutiny nor LAWMAKER discussion. At the end,LAWMAKERS celebrated with expensive bottles of champagne!

    So how is "Kicking the political can down the road," working? Yeah, thought so.

  5. Here's the problem: have the right 37 been laid off? I could happily provide a list. Furthermore, how many people with ridiculously high salaries have barely suffered while state employees who are low-paid--I'm thinking of administrative assistants I work with--end up needing state and federal services because their wages are now officially poverty-level? Further, Mr. Erquiaga's "safety net" is a lot stronger for Barrick Gold than it is for lesser folk.

  6. Did anyone really read this article? Every state worker took pay and benefit cuts. Did you? And much of the burden was absorbed by not filling vacant positions, meaning everyone else has to do more to make up for the loss. And many people left the state to find work before they were laid off. So yes it was bad. Just because it was possible to shuffle around so that only 37 more had to go, doesn't mean there wasn't a problem. If you were in those departments you'd see the problem. But it is just easier complain. Walk in someone else's shoes before you judge.

  7. If Mr. Sun was being honest...

    The headline would read:

    "A FIFTH ROUND OF BUDGET CUTS WILL TAKE EFFECT TODAY"

    Instead of the disingenuous, misleading, slap-in-the-face to publicly employed Nevadans headline that is being used.

    -OR-
    Mining skates again, while TENS of THOUSANDS of Nevada's workers suffer Budget's consequences.

    AGAIN...to be HONEST about it...this is THE FIFTH ROUND OF BUDGET CUTS, and as Mr. Green & Ms Singer point out in their commentary, MANY NEVADANS have lost jobs, taken pay reductions, (plural) lost benefits, taken on added duties, and STILL come to work every day and kiss the public's collective butt....

    So, haters, go hate on someone else today. I'm sure you have others that you hate with nearly as much venom as you do the beaten & battered "public servant"...
    Right, FINK???

  8. I thought listening to the dems in the legislature that we were going to back to the dark ages. What happened??? remember this the next time they start doomsdaying and using the fear tactics.

  9. I agree with Bob_Realist.

  10. @By staralioflundnv (Star Ali Mistriel-Kogan) wrote: There are certainly MORE than 37 workers that work directly or indirectly (education/police/fire) for the STATE of Nevada, that are losing their jobs! Was this articles meant to "soften" the political blow as the reality of a SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION looms on the horizon?

    We're waiting for the totals from higher ed and school districts on their layoffs. As I hope the story made clear, this was not meant to imply public sector hasn't been touched by the recession (or "soften the political blow"). But layoffs are certainly one measure of the suffering of a sector of the economy.

  11. A well thought, spot on parting shot...

    Good luck, TonyV!!!

  12. This story is very misleading. There may have been 37 layoffs effective today, but there are hundreds more on the way.

    UNLV's most recent $20 million budget cut will result in the loss of 9 departments, 18 degree programs and nearly 100 full time academic positions. At least another hundred employees received notices that their contracts will not be renewed. There will be cuts at UNR, CSN, NSC, Great Basin, etc.

    Higher education was dealt another massive blow by the 2011 legislature. It will just take a bit more time to see the effects.

  13. Good, please lay off more these ridiculously overpaid public workers.

    No more more Janitors making 90K a year....

    http://transparentnevada.com/salaries/20...

    We can't afford it anymore.

    Sincerely,

    The Nevada Taxpayer

  14. The article's numbers are both deceptive and inappropriate. They are inappropriate because the author surely knew what he was writing and wrote a rosy article anyway.

    The numbers are deceptive because they largely exclude the cuts from ALL of the areas where the most cuts were taken. This is particularly true of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), which took the lion's share of cuts in 2010-11 and now again faces the greatest reduction of any area of state government.

    NSHE, most of whose employees are State employees, has laid off hundreds of people this year. Even the small rural colleges have cut sizable portions of the regular workforce. Since 2009, UNR alone has lost 600 faculty and staff positions; WNC has lost 25% of its teaching faculty in the past several years.

    Most state workers will take a 4.8% furlough or cut this biennium, on top of the 4.6% cut that they took during the last biennium. That came after a set of salary freezes. Take-home pay will be further reduced, due to an increase in the employee's mandatory contribution to the privately-overseen retirement funds.

    Whenever the budget is cut disproportionately, there are bound to be areas in which there are few cuts at all. There are some sectors that improved this fiscal year over last year. However, where there were cuts, in many cases the cuts were severe.