No immunity here

Published 10:41 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009

By Staff
For years, many people, rightfully or wrongfully, believed having a government job — civil service — meant such job-holders were immune from losing their jobs.
It was not so long ago that someone with a civil-service position was believed by others without government jobs to be set for life. And to some extent, that belief had merit.
Things have changed, as they do when the economy finds itself in a recession like the one the nation is experiencing these days. There’s a good possibility that some North Carolina state government employees will be without jobs.
On Monday, North Carolina legislators released copies of the proposed two-year state budget cobbled after weeks of debate and negotiations. That release allowed the public and rank-and-file members of the General Assembly a look at the proposed budget, already a month late in being approved.
Among the details of the proposed spending plan are details about hundreds of state workers who would see their positions eliminated if the General Assembly approves the proposed budget and Gov. Beverly Perdue signs the budget bill into law, which is expected to happen this week.
The governor, a former teacher, has steadfastly maintained that she would not sign a budget bill that harmed education.
Previous Senate and House budget proposals included provisions to save more than $300 million by eliminating money for more than 6,000 teacher positions across the state. The current budget proposal would give school systems the option to use textbook funds or other monies to hire as many teachers as desired.
If budget cuts have to be made, and it looks like the state of the economy will force that to happen, reducing the funding for teachers should be an act of last resort. It would be better to reduce the number of employees at state visitors centers than take away teachers from classrooms.
When it comes to trimming the state budget, first reduce or eliminate the funds for “want-to-have” items and don’t touch the money for “got-to-have-it-to-function” items.
When it comes to saving dollars and cents, the General Assembly should exercise some common sense. That may require eliminating some state jobs that are not critical to providing essential services to the state’s residents.