State treasurer budget-cutting includes layoffs
Layoffs, furlough days and a wage freeze are being imposed in state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ office because of budget cuts made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The measures were outlined in a letter sent to the treasurer’s staff on Thursday that was obtained by GateHouse News Service.
Also Thursday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan dealt with spending cuts to her office by asking older employees to voluntarily retire and making non-union workers pay an additional 1 percent to their pensions.
Giannoulias spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki said the office had to act after Blagojevich cut $550,000 out of the treasurer’s $5.2 million fiscal 2009 budget for personnel expenses.
“The last thing any organization wants to do is lay off employees,” Wojcicki said. “It was one of those things that was a really tough decision to make, but the longer you wait, the deeper the cuts could have been.”
Six of the office’s 190 employees were laid off. Most of them worked in information technology and some outreach programs, Wojcicki said. There will be no hiring, either, at least for now.
“As we move forward, we will have to assess things,” Wojcicki said.
The treasurer’s 130 non-union employees are having their salaries frozen immediately. Wojcicki said that without the budget reduction, they would have gotten 1 percent to 3 percent cost-of-living raises this year.
The non-union employees also will have to take one to two days off without pay, depending on their salaries. Workers making more than $65,000 a year will have to take two furlough days, one of them before Oct. 1. About 39 treasurer employees make more than $65,000 a year.
Non-union workers making less than $65,000 will have to take one furlough day before June 30, 2009, the end of the state’s current budget year.
Wojcicki said the office will open discussions with two unions representing 60 employees about possibly making concessions, including furloughs. She said the cost-cutting measures will not affect core functions of the office.
“More people will have to take on a little extra work,” she said. “We really had to take a hard look at and find out where we could cut and still move forward with what we need to do.”
Like Giannoulias, the attorney general took a severe financial hit because of the cuts made by Blagojevich to balance a legislature-approved budget that did not match revenue to spending.
Madigan’s office already implemented a hiring freeze and is now asking employees to consider voluntary measures to save money. Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said the office is also requiring non-union employees to make an additional 1 percent contribution to their pensions, a contribution that would normally come out of the office’s budget.
She could not say how many employees are affected.
On Thursday, the attorney general asked employees who are eligible to retire to consider doing so, with an extra two weeks’ pay thrown in as an added incentive. Employees also are being asked to consider moving to a part-time work schedule.
“We are communicating that this is an option that could affect their benefits,” Ziegler said. “We will be working individually with each employee to make that determination.”
Both retirement and moving to part-time status are completely voluntary, Ziegler said. Both are being offered as a way to avoid more drastic cuts. Employees have until Aug. 22 to decide.
“I don’t know if there is a target number (for participation),” Ziegler said. “We want to see the response.”
Last week, Secretary of State Jesse White’s office said it has implemented a hiring freeze and a ban on overtime pay except in emergency situations. It is also talking with several unions that represent its 3,800 employees about furlough days. If furlough days don’t save enough money, layoffs may be necessary.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn’s office also has implemented a hiring freeze, with layoffs and furloughs being considered there as well.
Comptroller Dan Hynes is still reviewing how to deal with cuts made to his budget, spokeswoman Carol Knowles said Thursday.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.