Re: State Govt Employees – Legislature misses opportunity to align state staffing with priorities

The legislature has been touting its living wage proposal for state employees—an important first step in recognizing the important role that these workers play in our communities and the economy even if it appears not to include some of the lowest paid workers. But alongside consideration of various aspects of state employment should be an assessment of whether the state has the staffing to fulfill its mission of serving the people of this state and effectively and efficiently implementing new legislation. On that count, the legislature seems to have missed another opportunity.

NC OSHR seeks to attract and retain a high-performing, diverse workforce.

Governor Cooper recommended 807 new state government positions for 2019 to help state agencies carry out their missions, meet standardized workforce formulas and support new legislation. However, the legislature’s budget calls for only a third (265) of the total new number of positions that the Governor recommended.

Overall, the number of state and local government employees that serve North Carolinians has fallen behind growth in the number of people in our state. Estimates put our state government jobs deficit, based on our population, at 112,000.

Below is an overview of the state agencies that will be affected most and their notable losses:

Department of Public Safety – This department stands to lose the most from a staffing standpoint as the Governor requested 383 new positions for it, yet the legislature only intends to provide it with 65.

  • While the legislature intends to provide funding for 65 juvenile court councilor positions to support the Raise the Age legislation, it is worth noting that the governor had called for 88 positions to support this legislation. Furthermore, the governor also called for, among other things: 22 positions to support correctional staff safety and facility security; 9 positions for the State Bureau of Investigations to combat illicit activities and focus on opioids, gangs, computer crimes, and human trafficking investigations; 9 positions to enable the National Guard to carry out mission critical projects; and restored 149 of 196 nursing positions as the department has renewed efforts to recruit and retain permanent nursing staff.

Administrative Office of the Courts – Legislators will be cutting one position from this institution even though the Governor had requested 79 more positions for it.

  • Among other things, the Governor had recommended: 26 positions to meet the projected workload associated with the 2017 Raise The Age legislation (Five District Court Judges, eight Assistant District Attorneys, seven Legal Assistants and six Deputy Clerks); 17 Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) supervisors and one Regional Administrator to increase statewide capacity for the GAL program which equips community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court; as well as 25 Assistant District Attorneys and six District Attorney Investigators to meet courthouse position needs.

Department of Environmental Quality – After a year in which various communities in the state have suffered from polluted air and contaminated water the Governor recommended adding 58 positions at this department, but the legislature disagrees and calls for no new positions.

  • The Governor had called for 45 new positions to support the identification of perflourinated compounds and other emerging contaminants through water supply sampling and analysis and to address the existing backlog for issuing water discharge permit renewals; 11 positions to assist businesses in the state with permitting and compliance; and two lab technicians for a new laboratory that will allow for required testing of over 200 coastal sites and shellfish harvesting waters to protect the health of NC’s citizens.

Department of Natural and Cultural Resources – At this often overlooked agency the legislature calls for no new positions. On the other hand, the governor recommended adding a total of 12 new positions. Notable recommendations included 6 positions to improve visitor access and safety at: Chimney Rock State Park, Jordan Lake Recreational Area, and New River State Park; and two positions to allow preventative maintenance and ongoing archaeology programs at state historic sites.

Department of Health and Human Services – At the Division of Health Benefits the governor recommended funding for 30 new positions to transform Medicaid and Health Choice programs, however, the legislature disagrees and calls for no new positions at this division.

  • The governor’s recommended budget specifically called for: “funding to support 30 FTE, an enrollment Broker and Ombudsman Program to support beneficiaries, provider data management/credentialing verification and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, and technical and operational integration.”

Department of Military and Veterans Affairs – At this department the governor recommended adding one position to provide “applications support to several business-critical systems serving the military and veteran communities and to provide a strengthened cyber security presence within the department.” The legislature did not agree.

Luis Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

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