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Mass. Puts A Number On Its State Layoffs: 726

This article is more than 9 years old.

The Patrick administration has talked for over a year about cutting 1,750 jobs from the executive branch work force to cope with state budget deficits, but it's still short of its goal even as tax collections continue to languish.

An official tally released Tuesday at the request of The Associated Press shows 1,620 jobs had been cut as of Oct. 10, the end of the state's most recent payroll period.

Of those, only 726 came through layoffs. And 129 of those layoffs were made during the most recent pay period. The rest of the cuts came through attrition or voluntary departure programs.

While private-sector employers have cut thousands of jobs, including 3,000 during the past year at Boston-based Fidelity Investments, Gov. Deval Patrick says state reductions have been slowed by union contracts, employee bumping rights and the government's role as service provider of last resort.

"You can't be ham-fisted about this sort of thing if you care about delivering a service, and the public is still interested in the service," the governor told the AP during an interview last week.

Patrick said that with the state facing a new $600 million deficit, he is seeking employee concessions - including the possibility of furlough days - to avoid a second wave of up to 2,000 state job cuts.

"We know if we continue to reduce headcount at the rate we have, service will suffer," he said.

Three of those who have held onto their jobs are the sister of Patrick's campaign manager and two of her friends.

The Boston Herald reported that Patty Vantine, sister of Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, and two friends she hired, Kathleen Reilly and Kevin Phelan, retained their jobs with the Department of Conservation and Recreation even as 37 co-workers - many of them more senior employees - were laid off earlier this month.

Another 54 jobs were cut through an early retirement program.

DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan, who hired Vantine two years ago, told the AP he knew she was Walsh's sister but that didn't factor into the decision to hire her or keep her on the payroll.

"I needed to have a talented individual in place to run both of those departments," Sullivan said of Vantine, who oversees finance, human resources and contract services. "At the end of the day, you get the job because you're qualified. Patty has done the job."

He said Reilly had 18 years of state service before returning last year from family leave, while Phelan had worked for a Fortune 500 company before joining the DCR.

A series of Massachusetts employers have shed jobs during the past year as rising fuel prices and Wall Street's collapse triggered a national recession exceeded only by the Great Depression. Fidelity's job cuts equated to roughly 7 percent of its 44,000-person worldwide work force.

On Oct. 15, 2008, Patrick first announced cuts in the state work force after identifying a $1.4 billion budget shortfall due to falling tax collections. He outlined $1 billion in immediate reductions and spending controls. Thirty-eight full-time equivalent jobs were cut by the end of the next payroll period, Oct. 25, 2008.

The data showed cuts have continued through each pay period the past year, but only three times did the number of cuts exceed 100 before the most recent period, which ended Oct. 10. Then the number jumped by 179 people.

All told, Patrick's initial goal has been to cut what was a 39,554-person executive branch work force by 4.4 percent. To date, he has achieved 4.1 percent, but the number would have been 3.6 percent without the most recent batch of cuts.

The AP requested updated data throughout the past year, but its most recent inquiries were answered only Tuesday after the issue was raised directly with Patrick on Friday.

"Give him the number," the governor instructed his aides. As one used a BlackBerry to type a message to Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez, an exasperated Patrick said, "Jay is in the next room. Why don't you just get him?"

This program aired on October 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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