Employees of state critical to economy

Published 7:01pm Monday, February 18, 2013

In his State of the State address, Governor Bentley bragged about how he has eliminated 4,000 state employee jobs. He calls this “rightsizing government” and “eliminating government waste.” These are 4,000 families that still have to be fed, still have to pay their bills, still have to provide a future for their children. These are also 4,000 employees who were providing necessary government services that the people of Alabama rely on.

When we say “state employees,” let’s be clear whom we are talking about. We are talking about the people who operate our court system, the law enforcement officers that patrol our highways and guard our prisons, the people who manage our state’s Mental Health and Medicaid programs, and the hundreds of accountants, administrators, and other professionals who make our government function each day. And that list is just a few of the people who are considered “state employees.”

But to Gov. Bentley and the Republican leaders in the legislature, these state employees aren’t working families or public servants. No, to the leadership in Montgomery, these state employees are “government waste” that needs to be “right sized.” Never mind the fact that these state employees are also taxpayers and consumers who shop at local businesses. These state employees are a critical part of making our government function as well as essential to our state’s economy. But to the Republicans in Montgomery, state employees are nothing more than a cancer that needs to be cut out.

The leadership in Montgomery would have us believe that we have to get rid of these state jobs in order to “eliminate government waste.” But that just isn’t true. Consider the fact that just a few months ago, these same leaders were begging the people of Alabama to pass a constitutional amendment to let them borrow $437 million. Why would they have done that if they could have found the money by eliminating government waste?

For the past two years, the people running Montgomery have treated our state employees and educators like they were second-class citizens. They cut their pay after years of failing to provide a basic cost-of-living pay increase, and for new employees they are cutting their health and retirement benefits.

If we continue to eliminate state employees, our government will not be able to provide the services the people of Alabama need. It also means that our economy will continue to struggle to climb out of this recession. We cannot continue to treat state employees and educators like they are a problem we have to get rid of. They are the people who make our government function. They are vital parts of our economy, and it is time we treated them as such.

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