Thursday, February 19, 2009

State layoffs are still likely, governor says

Stimulus money will cut numbers By Erik Schelzig • ASSOCIATED PRESS • February 19, 2009 The money Tennessee will receive from the federal stimulus package may reduce the number of state workers facing layoffs, but some will likely still be let go, Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday. The governor said the number of layoffs would be substantially lower than the 2,300 that had been under consideration, but that he doesn't know what the total number will be. The governor said he hoped to avoid most layoffs through attrition. "I can't give you a ballpark, but I do not think right now there's enough money in the stimulus package that's flexibly available to preclude the possibility of any layoffs," he said. Tennessee is in line to receive $4.3 billion in federal money over two years, according to an analysis by the Federal Funds Information for States, a service of the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures. But most of that money is directed to specific programs. Bredesen had been planning for $900 million in cuts for the upcoming spending year. A preliminary look at Tennessee's share of the stimulus money indicates that about $500 million of the money will be available for plugging budget holes, he said. About $573 million of the federal money has been designated for road and bridge projects that can get under way quickly. The state Transportation Department has compiled a list of $850 million worth of projects that have been identified as "shovel ready." Bredesen criticized lawmakers who raised concerns in a Senate Transportation Committee hearing a day earlier that not enough road and bridge projects paid for by stimulus money are being directed to their home districts. "People doing the complaining probably ought to just re-look at what we were asked to do here," Bredesen said. "It was not a list that was designed to be fair to every county or every region of this state, it was a list of projects that were ready to go."

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