State Workers

State cuts cost 20 their jobs in county

The state Department of Printing notified 20 workers last week they will lose their jobs this month, the latest losses to affect agencies operating in Thurston County.

The Department of General Administration also notified 19 people – including carpenters and painters at the Capitol Campus – that their jobs are at risk.

The moves reflect continuing reductions in staffing at state agencies, a result of the 2009-11 budget that took effect July 1. That budget called for elimination of about 3,200 full-time equivalent positions in general government and higher education institutions statewide.

The Printing and GA cuts also are a result of cutbacks in spending at other agencies, which no longer order as much printing or renovation work because their own budgets were cut or they are squeezing expenses in response to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s executive order last June.

“We did consolidate. We are consolidating some of our copy center locations,” Laura Johnson, customer relations manager for the printing agency, said Wednesday.

The cuts will reduce agency staffing to 100 people, she said.

“It was because our current expenses have exceeded our current revenue. … We service all of the state agencies, so as they realize budget cuts … it’s one of the areas they cut back,” Johnson said.

The layoffs include seven workers at copy centers that Printing will close on Jan. 22; the centers are located at General Administration in Olympia and at the Department of Social and Health Services in Lacey. Other jobs will be cut at the main print operation in Tumwater.

Employees have mixed feelings about the cuts.

“It is what it is. I could cry about it. But that’s not going to serve me any,” said Thom Pickard, a customer service representative who has worked at the agency full time for 11/2 years and as a temporary employee for two years before that. “So I’ve been putting out job applications. It is what you make of it. I feel bad for some of the people who have a lot of time invested with the department.”

Linda Bremer, director at GA, said in a meeting with The Olympian’s editorial board on Wednesday that her agency had notified 19 maintenance workers their jobs are at risk. It’s for the same reason as the Printing layoffs – a lack of demand from agencies that are cutting back on minor renovations, carpet replacements or painting.

Bremer said she had to cut about $3 million out of the $35 million she had been funded for the Capitol Campus. “Agencies aren’t doing tenant improvements,” she said.

GA has eliminated about 15 positions since July 1, and 17 more in an earlier round of cuts. Bremer held off on additional cuts, waiting to see what happened when the Legislature’s freeze on hiring, equipment purchases and travel ended on July 1.

“We wanted to wait to see if there was a pent-up demand; it wasn’t there,” Bremer said.

Other agencies have a need for workers, including the Washington State Liquor Control Board, or perhaps the Commerce Department, which had potentially five jobs in weatherization, Bremer said. By giving workers “at-risk” notices, they can get in line to be considered for jobs at the other agencies, Bremer said.

GA made other cuts last year, and its work force totaled 605 full-time equivalent positions at the end of the year, agency spokesman Steve Valandra. That compared to 653 full-time positions in July 2005, he said.

Bremer said the public will notice the effect of the cuts – and not so much from less clean carpets, less frequent trash pickup or even brown lawns as GA moves to more eco-friendly landscaping practices that use fewer people.

“We’re not going to be as responsive as we have been. There won’t be the people there to respond” to queries, Bremer said. “They might not notice the light is a little dimmer, the paint is a little shabbier.”

The governor’s Office of Financial Management monitors the cuts and no other large clusters of layoffs are imminent, spokesman Glenn Kuper said. Agencies typically cut numbers by attrition as workers leave or retire, he said.

Department of Personnel data show the state’s general-government payroll shrank from 65,290 people in June to 63,320 at the end of December. More cuts lie ahead, as lawmakers take up Gov. Chris Gregoire’s supplemental budget request, which calls for 1,500 additional job cuts in general-government and higher education.