Bredesen says 2,000 state workers could lose jobs - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bredesen says 2,000 state workers could lose jobs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee budget woes could force the layoffs of more than 2,000 state employees, Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday.

A federal relief package for the states could reduce the number of necessary job cuts, but Bredesen said he sees no scenario where no layoffs will be necessary.

The Democratic governor said his budget plans include cutting about $900 million from the state's upcoming spending plan due to seriously lagging state revenues.

"I don't know any way to get from here to there without some layoffs," Bredesen said. "I hate to do it; I'm really going to work to try to minimize it."

"But I'm not going to get to zero," he said. "I know that."

Most state agencies have been asked to submit up to 15 percent budget cuts, and those plans included more than 2,000 cuts. Bredesen said he hopes to find ways to reduce that number.

The amount of cuts would also be mitigated by the federal relief package, but Congress has been slow to act on that proposal, and it's unclear how the money will be spent.

Bredesen warned the layoffs could be worse if the Legislature doesn't approve an administration proposal to allow more flexibility in civil service rules, and provide the ability to impose furloughs.

The civil service changes would allow state workers targeted for layoffs to immediately transfer to similar positions within other agencies instead of having to first leave state government and then reapply for openings.

And under current state law, the government doesn't have the ability to decide to close an office for one day a week to try to save money. Bredesen acknowledged that closing state offices will reduce access to services.

"But better that, in my mind, than closing an office entirely and telling somebody they've got to go 30 miles to the closest office," he said.

Bredesen said he has no way of predicting a best or worst case scenario for layoffs.

"It's not 5,000, but it's not zero," he said.            

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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