Bredesen: Buyouts aim to avoid loss of services - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bredesen: Buyouts aim to avoid loss of services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Buyout offers to state employees have been designed to minimize a loss of government services, Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday.

Bredesen is cutting about 2,100 of 47,000 jobs from the state payroll to save $64 million a year during an economic downturn.

The Democratic governor said each department was asked to target middle managers rather than workers who provide direct services.

"I urged them to focus on middle management, which like in any business tends to get a little big around the middle," Bredesen told reporters after a bill signing ceremony.

Bredesen acknowledged that he can't cut 5 percent of the state work force without some impact on services, but said he asked department heads to try to minimize that result.

The state hired a consultant to vet each department's buyout offers to ensure there were business justifications for targeting each position.

"One of the dangers when you do this is that people will use it as a way to get rid of somebody they don't like," Bredesen said. "We have put extraordinary protections in place against that."

The voluntary buyouts are being offered to about 12,000 state employees. Bredesen has warned that if not enough people accept the buyout package, mandatory layoffs will follow.       The Health, Human Services and Transportation departments are the state agencies targeted for the most buyouts, with about 260 positions to be cut from each.

The buyouts are expected to affect 33 agencies differently. For example, about 44 percent of more than 600 eligible Health Department workers are expected to leave, while only 7 percent of nearly 2,400 Department of Correction workers who could take buyouts are expected to do so.

Among the 79 cuts to be made in the Safety Department are 29 Tennessee Highway Patrol officers, including one lieutenant colonel, five captains, 10 lieutenants and 13 sergeants.       Bredesen said a main objective was to eliminate positions, not just leave them unfilled temporarily.

"What I asked the agencies to do is to target the buyouts so we weren't just buying out a lot of positions that had to be refilled again," he said.


(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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