Gov. Wolf eliminating ‘thousands’ of unfilled state jobs

Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is moving to eliminate thousands of unfilled positions in state government as Pennsylvania faces a large budget deficit, officials said Friday.

In this file photo, Gov. Tom Wolf talks with the media after a tour at York City School District's Ferguson K-8 on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. He was at the school as part of his Schools That Teach tour. Bill Kalina photo

The Wolf administration told cabinet agencies in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that it is effectively limiting the size of the state workforce to the number of positions now filled.

Wolf’s press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, said the decision will affect thousands of positions. However, he said he was not authorized to give a more precise number of positions eliminated, how each agency would be affected or say how much money the move would save.

There are about 73,000 filled salaried positions under the governor’s jurisdiction, Sheridan said.

The move came two days after the administration warned of a $600 million shortfall in the budget year that ends June 30. Administration officials blame the current-year shortfall in the state’s $31.5 billion budget on underfunding of human services programs and lackluster tax collections.

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That shortfall is compounded by a stubborn post-recession deficit that has dogged state government. The Legislature’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office has projected a $1.7 billion deficit in the fiscal year starting July 1.

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The repeated use of one-time stopgaps to plug the deficit has drawn five credit downgrades by the three major credit rating agencies since 2012, leaving Pennsylvania among the lowest-rated states and paying higher rates to borrow money.

On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said there is little appetite in the GOP-controlled Legislature to raise income or sales taxes, and he suggested that sweeping structural changes to state government could be needed to solve the latest fiscal jam.