ATLANTA — Lawmakers voiced concern during budget meetings last month that layoffs, job freezes and furloughs will have negative impacts on state government but they may be necessary to comply with the governor's cost-cutting mandate.
The governor’s office staff said state jobs could be on the chopping block with forced budget cuts. Documents posted on the governor's website call for dozens of state jobs being eliminated, frozen or furloughed in fiscal year 2020 in order to comply with the mandate.
After Gov. Brian Kemp ordered state agencies to cut 4% from their budgets this fiscal year, followed by 6% next year, lawmakers voiced concerns that state employees could lose their jobs.
Kelly Farr, director of the Office of Planning and Budget, confirmed during appropriations hearings last month that reductions could include job cuts.
“There’s a lot of panic right now ... ,” Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said during the meeting. “It affects morale tremendously if a person doesn’t know if they are going to have a job in January.”
Budget development documents uploaded to the Office and Planning and Budget website show the extent of why lawmakers are worried. Eleven state departments specifically requested staff reductions, freezing of vacant positions or staff furloughs to reduce costs.
The documents outline budget reduction — and increase — requests that the governor’s office will use to create its own recommendations. Lawmakers will then use those recommendations to draft and finalize appropriations bills.
Some departments do not specify what exactly is being cut and only list "4% reduction" without saying exactly how they would reduce spending to satisfy the governor's mandate.
The Department of Human Services, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Department of Agriculture and the governor's office itself are suggesting most of the job cuts.
Not a year after Kemp ordered $30,000 stipends for every school in Georgia to increase school safety and security, forced budget cuts could eliminate three school safety coordinator positions from the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
The Department of Human Services proposed huge cuts to the child welfare department, including 21 state child welfare positions, 9% of field education and training mentors, and a general reduction of the child welfare services field staff.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation targets forensics services, eliminating three scientists and two lab technicians and delaying additional hiring. Justice information services suggests losing five positions. Regional investigative services suggests eliminating 12 sworn and four non-sworn positions.
Below are the additional suggested job cuts and freezes outlined in the budget cut proposals for fiscal year 2020:
Department of Agriculture
• Consumer Protection: Reduce funds to reflect the elimination of 12 full-time positions and three part-time temporary positions.
• Departmental Administration: Reduce funds to reflect the elimination of one full-time position and two part-time temporary positions.
• Marketing and Promotion: Reduce funds to reflect the elimination of six full-time positions and seven part-time positions.
Georgia Public Defender Council
• Public Defenders: Furlough staff for 10 days.
• Public Defender Council: Furlough staff for 10 days; delay hiring of key personnel; elimination of front desk secretary.
State Board of Pardons and Paroles
• Victim Services: Reduction of funds utilized for part-time position to support entire program.
• Clemency Decisions: Eliminate deputy director and confidential assistant positions; reduce the number of confidential assistants utilized by the board to two.
Department of Community Health
• Georgia Composite Medical Board: Reduce the funds to hire a medical director.
Department of Banking and Finance
• Departmental Administration: Eliminate one vacant position, RIF (reduce-in-force) the support services position and reduce part-time assistance.
• Financial Institution Supervision: Eliminate four financial examiner positions (one vacancy and three retirements); reduce part-time assistance.
Some job proposals by agencies are unclear such as the Department of Corrections outlining freezing vacant positions in multiple departments; Department of Education suggests “staff reorganization” in all departments; and the commissioner of Insurance suggests “personnel adjustments” across multiple departments.
Various government programs are also under threat of being dissolved. The Department of Public Health may lose funds for Medicaid growth projects and the Physicians in Rural Areas program. A $500,000 grant that was set to go to the Morehouse School of Medicine to study Georgia's extreme rates of maternal mortality may be eliminated.
Veterans services is looking to cut 4% of funds from veterans nursing homes including the Milledgeville Nursing Home, as well as 4% of field operations for veterans benefits. The Department of Defense is suggesting reducing funds to military academies, including Milledgeville Youth Challenge Academies.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is requesting a reduction of more than half a million dollars in grant funds to domestic violence shelters and sexual assault centers.
Agency requests for fiscal year 2021 are also available for view on the governor's website. They outline additional job cuts that year to satisfy the governor's mandatory 6% budget reduction.
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.