Despite the prospect of exploding budget gaps in the future, Albany has taken only modest steps toward streamlining state government, such as closing a few prisons and offering $20,000 buyouts to state employees.

In contrast, the Rhode Island governor and leaders of public employee unions tentatively have agreed to 12 payless furlough days (equivalent to a 4.5 percent pay cut) and postponing for six month their next scheduled pay hike.

Nationwide, Stateline.org reports “More and more state leaders from both political parties are talking about changing the face of state government as the recession severely limits the services states can offer.”

“Indiana will have fewer dollars to work with in 2011 than we did in 2007,” Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) recently told a gathering of state capitol reporters in Indianapolis, according to The Statesman-Journal of Salem, Ore. “That says you cannot have the same government you had, unless you plan to go broke.”

“Mitch Daniels is right,” Oregon’s Democratic governor, Ted Kulongoski, told the newspaper.

But as Stateline.org points out savings can be modest.

And Kulongoski’s counterpart to the north, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), found out that lawmakers aren’t always willing to go along with “streamlining.” Gregoire earlier this year proposed eliminating a third of the state’s nearly 500 citizen boards and commissions; the legislature got rid of just 18 of them, while Gregoire eliminated another 50 by executive order….

(snip)

While state and local workforces are shrinking, they are doing so at a rate of only about 1 percent, The Christian Science Monitor noted. That pales in comparison to what is happening in other sectors of the economy. But with state and local workforces growing substantially over the past two decades and localities traditionally reluctant to thin their police and firefighter ranks, “even modest reductions are causing…a stir,” The Monitor said.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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