by Rob Roper & Lindsay Smith
The Shumlin Administration caused a stir when they pulled an “unprecedented” tactic in adding 48 jobs to the state rolls in the
Budget Adjustment Act, bypassing the accountability and transparency that accompanies the usual budgeting process. Although subsequent scrutiny led to many of those jobs being redefined as temporary, and all coming from existing but unfilled positions (technically not “new” jobs), those concessions were not enough to garner Republican support.
Minority Leader Don Turner explained during a caucus meeting prior to the floor vote, “Even though these jobs are being moved from the pool [of existing but unfilled positions] there still is a cost with them going forward. The pensions, the healthcare, all of the employee liabilities associated with those positions going forward is going to cost the state money…. When you put a body with that position, there’s an additional cost going forward.”
“We can’t forget that we spent the last several sessions trying to pare down the state workforce for a reason,” added Turner. “Since this Administration’s taken over, they’ve added over seventy jobs in the last fiscal year. They’re proposing fifty now, and our Appropriations people are telling me that there are already 8 or 10 ready for F[iscal]Y[ear] ’13 that they’ve already heard about…. We can’t continue to grow government and the cost associated with it.”
Senator Randy Brock echoed a similar sentiment. “They say [the Democrats] that they are simply filling vacant positions and they are adding no new positions. I think that’s smoke and mirrors. Point of fact: we’re increasing the size of the state workforce. Those positions in many cases are vacant because we deliberately decided to leave them vacant as part of earlier budget reductions. This is pure and simple an increase in the state workforce, and to increase the state workforce in that way in he Budget Adjustment Act is unprecedented.”
This move comes on the heels of an unexpected state revenue downgrade of $9 million. “There are more efficient and effective ways to complete the critical tasks that lay before us than committing millions of dollars to new employees salaries, benefits, and pensions.” concluded Turner.
The roll call vote on the Budget Adjustment Act was 98 to 43 in favor. Three Republicans joined the Democrat majority in voting for the bill (Acinipura of Brandon, Brennan of Colchester, Chair of the Transportation Committee, and Pearce of Richford). One Independent, Greshin of Warren, joined the Republicans.