State employees worried about jobs amid budget cuts

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The fallout from state budget cuts continues.

Now, some state employees are scared they may be out of work soon and one former state employee is now working to protect them.

The Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, or MASE, represents state employees.

President Brenda Scott says over the past few weeks, she’s received more and more calls of people scared that they may lose their jobs because of cuts.

State-funded agencies are experiencing budget cuts in the millions of dollars and some are already planning for staffing cuts.

Scott says she’s getting calls every day.

“Just a great amount of uncertainty out there as it relates to the future of our state employees. And it’s across the board. It’s in corrections and in mental health. It’s in the health department and the Department of Human Services. It’s just across the board.”

Scott is right.

The Mississippi Department of Health will see an 11 percent or $4,000,000.

The attorney general’s office says they’re taking an 18 percent cut.

Rachael Ring in the Attorney General’s office says, “Eliminating special funds while at the same time slashing our budget, is similar to a parent raiding a child’s college savings to pay for a Caribbean vacation while promising to pay for college from an account that was overdrawn in the first place.”

“It’s just a sad situation,” said Scott.

The State Department of Corrections’ 2017 budget is $16,800,000 less than requested.

In the coming weeks, corrections will be assessing and prioritizing its needs.

Commissioner Marshall Fisher says he’s going to avoid personnel cuts at all costs.

In a statement, he says the following:

“We are already seriously understaffed in our prisons and probation and parole offices.”

Although MDOC says they’ll try to not cut staff, that’s not the case in every department.

And many agencies took big cuts last year.

The Mississippi Department of Health, for instance, let 83 people go.

“When you see that you’re not able to get the health care at the health department that you once got. That corrections is so severely understaffed  that your safety could be at risk. All of the services that are currently being provided by a public employee or under threat.”

And there are other problems for state employees.

Scott says Mississippi workers make on average $9,000 less than state workers in surrounding states like Tennessee and Louisiana.

“They’re worried about whether or not they’ll have a job. I mean they haven’t gotten a raise in, since, God it’s been so long,” said Scott.

As we learn more about the budget situation, Scott is trying to reassure the people she talks to every day.

She’s also trying to educate them by providing the voting records of legislators and access to budget information.

 

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