N.C. House Republican leaders held a press conference yesterday to discuss the House’s budget proposal, being debated on the House floor today. The primary issue being discussed related to wild fluctuations in the different estimates of “job cuts” included in the budget.
Democrats have been warning the House GOP plan would ax more than 30,000 jobs, more than 18,000 in education alone. But House Speaker Thom Tillis denied it: “It simply doesn’t work out with the math.”
Tillis said “maybe as many as 5,000 to 7,000” current workers could lose their jobs. But he says the rest of the cuts are either to vacant positions, or can be covered for by normal job turnover among teachers and state employees. In fact, he claims the budget could generate 14,000 jobs through funding for repairs and renovations.
In today’s Carolina Journal, John Hood offers some sensible analysis of the conflicting views of job losses.
Next, Perdue conflated the concepts of lost positions and layoffs. They are not the same thing. As House Majority Leader Skip Stam pointed out, annual attrition will supply many of the positions to be lost. In the public schools alone, between 10,000 and 11,000 teachers leave their jobs in a given year. Some retire. Some move. Some leave the profession entirely, while others leave temporarily (to have children, for example, or go back to school). Thousands more choose to leave other jobs in public schools, colleges, universities, and other state agencies.
Deciding not to fill a government job that becomes vacant in the coming year is not the same thing as laying off a government employee. It’s not even the same thing as increasing state unemployment. Some who would have filled those positions in the coming year will take other jobs instead. Others aren’t in North Carolina yet, or will move elsewhere.
The true number of layoffs implicit in the GOP budget plan is probably a few thousand, not 20,000 or 30,000. Oh, and because the estimate is for the budget plan as a whole, it counts some of the jobs that Perdue had already proposed eliminating in her own budget, which shares many features with the Republican one.
Bottom line: be very leery of wild accusations of massive job losses resulting from the House budget plan. And for a little perspective how rapidly the state added employees to the government payroll, see this article which finds that the state added nearly 35,000 state employees from 2001 to 2009, at .