Blaming the tough economy and deep budget cuts, the Rendell administration today announced it would lay off 319 employees across 10 state agencies, bringing to 769 the total number of government jobs cut over the past year.
Administration Secretary Naomi Wyatt said the Department of Environmental Protection will see the greatest reductions, losing 138 positions, about five percent of workforce - while the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will lay off 85 workers, or more than 25 percent of its workforce.
The cuts - effective Nov. 20 - are expected to save the Commonwealth $17 million over the next 12 months. The staff reductions were negotiated as part of the budget agreement approved last month after a 101-day delay.
The reductions come on top of two other rounds of layoffs earlier this year, including 250 cuts announced in August. About 50 of those workers found jobs elsewhere in state government, Wyatt said.
Wyatt said the cuts, the result of the state's $3.2 billion budget shortfall, could have been much worse (as many as 1,000 jobs) under some budget proposals that were under consideration by the legislature.
Wyatt also said cost-cutting measures such as elimination of travel budgets, deferral of new equipment purchases and not filling job vacancies helped reduce the number of layoffs.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will suffer the greatest percentage loss in its workforce, resulting in the suspension of services at six historic sites, closure of the state museum two days a week and eliminate all new exhibit spending. The State Archives also will close Mondays and Tuesdays. Educational programs and other services at historic sites, including Graeme Park and Hope Lodge in Montgomery County and Washington Crossing Historic Park in Bucks County, will be discontinued and buildings' "mothballed," Wyatt said.
Kirk Wilson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, said the agency is hoping local "friends" groups will step up to keep activities going. The agency has nearly completed agreement with the Friends of Brandywine Battlefield Park in Delaware County to help keep that site open.
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