The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported late Tuesday the Governor's Budget Office has imposed what it said was a temporary freeze on filling 200 vacant positions within the Department of Environmental Protection, including filling any of its 24 vacant positions within the Oil and Gas Program.
DEP will only be able to fill just 34 vacant positions in its overall complement of 2,495 and none of the 24 vacant positions in the Oil and Gas Program, even though that program is supported by permit fees.
The areas of DEP hardest hit in the workforce reduction, according to the article, are open positions ranging from chemists and clerks to environmental emergency response coordinators funded in the Environmental Protection Operations line-item.
A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said the move was necessary because the budget Gov. Wolf signed in December “significantly underfunds critical functions of state government.”
But numbers released by the Governor’s Budget Office in December show DEP received $3.3 million more in the three General Fund line-items related to personnel costs-- $128.6 million vs. $125.3 million last year and overall DEP received a 2.4 percent increase in funding.
These new numbers mean DEP’s authorized complement has shrunk from 3,200 in 2002-03 to its current 2,495, about 705 positions-- 22 percent-- as DEP Secretary John Quigley mentioned in a video report to DEP employees last week in a way that he considered them lost.
These reductions at DEP, if they stand, are the largest since Gov. Rendell furloughed 138 DEP employees in 2009 and eliminated 120 vacant positions when John Hanger was DEP Secretary (now Gov. Wolf's Secretary for Policy).
There were no furloughs of DEP or DCNR employees under Gov. Corbett, although vacant positions continued to be reduced at DEP.
Note: No hard information is available on vacancy losses from DCNR, but speculation puts it at about 60 positions.
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