Monday, December 12, 2011

Only a bureaucrat could understand keeping "vacant" positions

NASHVILLE -- State agencies are scrambling to save hundreds of long-vacant positions set to be axed next year, warning that abolishing some could harm services for Tennesseans most in need and, in one case, risk federal penalties.

The move comes in response to a directive from Gov. Bill Haslam that state departments eliminate frozen positions vacant for more than a year unless they can "buy" them back by making cuts in less vital areas.

Four years of budget cuts and hiring freezes, a lagging economic recovery and higher demand for services have taken their toll on the state, some commissioners have said.

The upcoming 2012-13 budget proposal will be the first shaped entirely by Haslam, a Republican who succeeded Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen last January. The current 2011-12 budget that went into effect July 1 was built largely on Bredesen's recommendations.

In his 2010 campaign, Haslam spoke of the need for a "leaner and more efficient, effective and accountable state government."