Friday, December 16, 2016

Wolf Locks Staff Levels At Dec. 2 Numbers Affecting Over 400 Positions At DEP, DCNR

The Associated Press reported Friday Gov. Wolf sent a memo to each agency Secretary under his jurisdiction saying he was locking state agency staff levels at what they were on December 2.
The memo said the Governor is putting the funding earmarked for those positions in budgetary reserve.
For the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources that could mean not being able to fill any of the up to 408 vacant positions that were authorized, but are vacant.
The FY 2016-17 Executive Budget published by Gov. Wolf in February had DEP with an authorized staff complement of 2,691 positions.  As of November 15 the Governor’s Office PennWATCH website said DEP’s complement was 2,401 resulting in 290 positions now blocked from being filled.
In DCNR the FY 2016-17 Executive Budget had DCNR with an authorized salaried staff complement of 1,427.  As of November 15 the Governor’s Office PennWATCH website said DCNR’s complement was 1,309 resulting in 118 positions now blocked from being filled.
The AP story said the positions not fill would be eliminated. reported if specific agencies want to exceed their December 2 staffing number, they will have to make a “business case” for the change.
Gov. Wolf took similar steps to freeze state hiring in February to deal with a then unfinished state budget, however, positions were not eliminated.
Mid-Year Budget Briefing
At the Mid-Year Budget Briefing Wednesday, Randy Albright, Gov. Wolf’s Budget Secretary, said he expects the current fiscal year to end on June 30 with a $603.7 million thanks to lagging revenues and the expected need for up to $182 million in supplemental funding primarily for the Department of Human Services.
While he said the Administration was in general agreement with the Independent Fiscal Office deficit numbers, the Governor’s Office deficit projection was $103.7 million higher than the IFO’s $500 million  estimate.
The IFO is also projecting  a $1.7 billion deficit in the coming FY 2017-18 fiscal year, but Albright did not project a number for next year.
Secretary Albright said there is some reason for optimism due to pent up demand due to the election and pointed to the surging stock market as evidence.
The Budget Office will be meeting with the agency secretaries later on Wednesday to  work with them on identifying additional opportunities to cut costs, but not in an across-the-board way, but surgically.
Albright also acknowledged the Budget Office has already put “hundreds of millions of dollars” in budgetary reserve this year in anticipation of a deficit.
          In response to another question, Secretary Albright said the Administration has not means to prevent the layoff of 500+ jobless call center workers.
House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) told the media Wednesday the state is facing “a massive budget deficit” and needs to consider a broad restructuring of state agencies to save money, saying maybe we don’t need all the state agencies we have now.  
He said restructuring could affect schools, human services, prisons and operations of the General Assembly itself.
Rep. Reed said after the last two budget becoming law without Gov. Wolf’s signature, the Republicans this year may write their own budget.  [Actually, they did do that several times during the FY 2015-16 and 2016-17 budget discussions.]
Albright said in response to a question about Rep. Reed’s suggestions, the Administration will exhaust any and all options to reduce spending and costs before seeking any additional revenues.  
With respect to additional revenue, Albright said, as Budget Secretary, all options are on the table.
Gov. Wolf lays out his FY 2017-18 budget proposal on February 7.
AP: Gov. Wolf Eliminating Thousands Of Unfilled State Jobs
Thompson: Wolf Administration Freezes Personnel Funding

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