If you’re hunting news reporters, it’s only natural to stalk their lairs – to sneak up on them while they’re still slightly lethargic from digesting a large meal of Carol Porter.
So Karen Handel and her two guides this afternoon made a rare and stealthy entrance into press row at the state Capitol, a line of offices where grown adults go to shake off every childhood lecture about neatness.
The Republican candidate for governor grabbed a reporter’s chair in the AJC enclave and started talking. Shannon McCaffery with the Associated Press took the next seat. In came Walter Jones with Morris News Service, pad in hand. Lori Geary of WSB-TV brought a camera man to fill the front door. Tom Baxter of InsiderAdvantage and Travis Fain of the Macon Telegraph rounded out the crowd.
Bingo. Instant news conference.
Handel announced that her solution to the state’s budget crisis is to recognize “the new normal” and slice Georgia’s state workforce by 10 percent – exempting teachers, State Patrol officers and others who keep the bad guys in line.
It would save $400 million – not enough to close the $1.2 billion budget gap for 2011. And it would take more than a few months to reach that 10 percent mark, she conceded. Here are some of her details:
– Permanent elimination of 10% of state government positions for FY2011 budget year – excluding teachers and public safety officers (State Patrol, GBI, etc.). This would save approximately $404 million and reduce the workforce by approximately 7,800 employees.
– Keep permanent the Governor’s budget savings to date achieved through attrition, resignations, and retirements. According to the State Personnel Administration, this represents nearly 5% of the workforce and equals an additional $190 million in savings.
–Reorganize agencies to reduce management layers and achieve supervisor/ employee ratio of 8 or 9 employees to 1 supervisor. Too often employees are promoted to supervisor or manager positions because of length of service rather than a reflection of management responsibilities.
–Reform state salary and benefits by moving state employees to “paid time off” (or PTO) and limited leave carry-over rather than the current accrual system, which allows employees to “bank” significant amounts of sick, compensatory, and vacation time that is then used to “bridge” to retirement or is cashed-in upon departure/retirement.
Handel’s get-’em-where-they-live tactic was immediately mimicked by a Republican rival for governor, state Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, who held a mini-press conference in AP headquarters. In rebuttal, Scott said Handel was overestimating the savings from a 10 percent workforce reduction.
But Scott, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers were indeed looking at the elimination of whole sections of agencies within state departments.
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