Local government leaders struggle to keep employees on the payroll without drastic pay cuts
Public sector employees already are underpaid, according to the Washington-based AFT‘s ninth annual Public Employees Compensation Survey, released in September. But, with California’s decision Tuesday to lay off at least 10,000 state workers by July 1, state and local government employees are more concerned with simply holding on to the jobs they have.
The California legislature still was working on resolving a $42 billion budget deficit on Wednesday to avoid laying off another 10,000 employees, according to the Los Angeles Times. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued 10,000 layoff notices on Tuesday to employees in various state departments.
According to the Washington-based Bureau of Labor Statistics, school and employee bus transportation; highway, street and bridge construction; and elementary and secondary schools ranked in the top 10 industries with the largest number of mass layoff initial claims in 2008. In October, the Oakland, Calif., City Council voted to eliminate 100 jobs, reduce elected officials’ salaries by 5 percent and close city offices one additional day each month. At the beginning of the year, Austin, Texas, froze hiring and wages.
Similar headlines appear daily in cities across the nation and may continue as many states reduce aid to cities and counties. For example, Minnesota plans to cut at least $500 million in local government aid over the next two years. “We know of some cities that are doing all types of things [to compensate for the lost revenue] — layoffs, downsizing, attrition, closing libraries,” says Elena Temple, a spokesperson for Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).
Some of the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed on Feb. 17, will be filtered from states to local governments, while other funds will go directly to cities and counties. USCM has assembled a list of “shovel-ready” projects in 779 cities that could use the money to create 1.6 million jobs, although it is not clear how many of those would be public sector positions.