1,266 jobs lost to cuts by state

OLYMPIA — Budget cuts approved by the Legislature last week are expected to result in a cut of 1,266 full-time jobs in Washington state government.

Most of the cuts are a result of privatizing liquor sales and distribution in the state, but some jobs will also be cut from the Department of Social and Health Services.

DSHS, the state’s largest general government agency, has shed nearly 17 percent of its workforce since June 2008, The Olympian newspaper reported.

DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley says the DSHS cuts, which include about 440 full-time equivalent jobs, have come while demand for agency services continues to grow.

Virtually all of the new cuts are to positions that currently are vacant.

“We have done everything we can to make the reductions away from the front lines,” Shapley said.

The bipartisan supplemental budget passed last week authorized 104,841 state positions, according to estimates released this week by the governor’s Office of Financial Management.

It is unclear how many of the job cuts – outside of the liquor agency – will result in layoffs.

The last time the state’s work force was smaller was during the 2001-03 budget cycle, when there were 104,189 full-time equivalent positions on the payroll.

Republican Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County, an advocate for smaller government, said he will be watching to see how the laid-off liquor workers are able to find new jobs and whether the quality of other state services declines.

But he thinks additional reductions could be made.

“I believe that we should be taking a hard look at the programs and activities the state of Washington is doing compared to what the private sector can do,” Alexander said.

Democratic Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle is concerned that the state has already cut perilously close to the bone. He said state government workers are the people who protect natural resources, teach college classes, take care of the disabled and perform other vital services.

“We know we need to cut. But I think there are limits to what we should be doing,” Murray said, singling out K-12 public schools and higher education.

The new budget does add staff members to some state programs, including eight new positions for child-support collection and 28 for long-term care at DSHS. There also are 12 positions for the Attorney General’s Office, which is getting new duties to attack Medicaid fraud.


Information from: The Olympian, http://www.theolympian.com

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