"State Government to be Reduced by Minimum of 1,500 Positions with New Services Contracted Out"

“Governor Gary Locke has announced that he will reduce Washington state government employment by at least 1,500 full-time positions by the end of the current biennium. He said he also wants new services to be contracted out to the private sector.Locke said he will reduce state employment primarily through attrition, targeted early retirement, and management efficiencies.The workforce reduction is reportedly part of a plan by the governor to downsize state government while improving efficiency in delivery of state services. Savings from downsizing would go toward addressing the impacts of Initiative 695 and continuing improvements the governor has said he is committed to making in the public school system.“The people have said they want more efficient, effective government,” Locke said. “We’ve been working on this since I took office, and now we’re going to redouble our efforts.”Locke said the Savings Incentive Program, which encourages state agencies to redirect savings to school construction, higher education, and technology to improve state employee productivity, has generated $159 million for those purposes since 1997.Locke said he has issued a directive, effective immediately, instructing all state agencies to identify any new state service that could be contracted out to a private service provider.“Many of our state’s new services could be delivered faster, cheaper, and more efficiently by contracting out,” Locke said. “I want to push state government in a direction that builds partnerships with the private sector for the best use of our taxpayers’ dollars.”Locke also said he has directed his new budget chief, Marty Brown, director of the Office of Financial Management, to coordinate an effort by agency directors to identify opportunities to:- Reduce state employment through attrition, targeted early retirement, and management efficiencies.- Re-assign existing staff to higher priority activities.- Scrutinize new hiring and staffing decisions.- Expand employee incentive programs for quality customer service.- Control expenditures on travel, equipment and leasing costs.- Identify and eliminate fraud in government.- Expand on-line government services to provide easier access.Locke said his supplemental budget proposal to the 2000 Legislature will reflect a reduction of over 1,500 positions, including 500 directly from efficiency improvements. The others are reportedly due to reductions resulting from passage of I-695.The governor said his 2000 supplemental budget proposal would include funding to help local governments provide basic levels of public safety services. He also said he would propose his High-Performance Government initiative in the next legislative session to improve the accountability, flexibility, and competitiveness of the state workforce through civil service reform. The legislative package includes:- Authorizing agencies and higher education institutions to contract out existing state services.- Expanding collective bargaining so state employees have the same bargaining rights as city and county employees.- Streamlining the states job-classification system.Locke said he wants to improve the state’s contract management and further reduce Medicaid and other fraud. He added he wants to improve direct delivery of state services to Washington residents through consolidation of customer service programs to provide “one stop” service on the Internet and over the telephone.“State government needs to respond to the needs of its customers in the Internet culture of the 21st century,” Locke said. “That’s why we have looked at ways to do business with citizens through the Internet. We now have a state web site with links to all state agencies and services called Access Washington. Another example is the service that allows businesses to pay their state taxes via the Internet with the electronic filing system developed by the Department of Revenue.”Locke said 49.6 percent of state job growth in recent years has been in higher education, where new teaching staff is necessary to match increasing enrollment, and 12.2 percent in corrections, where more staff is required to run new prisons to hold a growing prison population.General government employment has been declining in terms of jobs per 1,000 of state population during Locke’s term, according to the state. Reportedly, that amount will have declined by about 5 percent over the length of Locke’s current term in office.”