Necessary state job cuts in Tennessee, Georgia

Necessary state job cuts in Tennessee, Georgia

January 23rd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

The governments of both Tennessee and Georgia continue to make or propose budget cuts that may not prove very popular but that are clearly necessary in this time of continued economic weakness.

In Tennessee, for example, it was announced recently that the Department of Education will be cutting scores of positions, some of which fortunately are not currently filled but most of which are.

There is no joy in laying off workers in either government or the private sector, and we hope that the laid-off Department of Education employees will be able to find other jobs promptly.

But with the economy still in poor shape -- and with Tennessee not exactly rolling in tax revenue -- the state has to take steps to make ends meet.

And those steps will not be confined to the Department of Education. Gov. Bill Haslam said there will be similar job cuts throughout state government in his budget.

"[O]ne of our responsibilities in government is we use taxpayer money as effectively as we can," the governor said. "And one of the things I'm constantly emphasizing, we're about providing the service. It's not about us as the employer. It's about how do we provide that service in the most effective way we can?"

That gets at the heart of the matter.

In order to provide services, state government -- or government at any level, for that matter -- obviously must have employees. But with involuntary taxpayer dollars supporting those positions, it is wrong to sustain any government job that is not truly necessary to performing the legitimate functions of government. Government is not an employment program, as Haslam seems to recognize.

Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia appears to hold the same sound view.

He is proposing in his 2013 budget that the state consolidate or even get rid of a number of agencies, in order to boost the efficiency of Georgia government.

For example, he would get rid of the State Personnel Administration, which handles human resources, and shift its duties to the Department of Administrative Services. That would save taxpayers approximately $900,000, though it would cut 40 jobs.

We see no evidence that either Haslam or Deal takes pleasure in job losses that result from the necessary streamlining of government services.

To the contrary, we suspect that both governors are troubled by the knowledge that their plans could leave some state workers unemployed.

But they both also recognize that government cannot justify keeping employees that it simply does not need.

That will be of understandably little comfort to the affected employees, but it is the responsible way to manage the finances of state government.