While 2,100 state workers have accepted an early retirement offer in recent weeks, about 1,100 new workers will be hired to fill many of those jobs. State Senator Randy Feenstra of Hull says he and many other Republicans are opposed to hiring any new workers.
“When this bill came out, that was the first thing that was said: ‘Are we going to hire new workers?'” Feenstra says. “The Democrat Party said: ‘No, we’re not. We’re just going to retire, help some of those that need to be weeded out of the system.’ And unfortunately, now we’re back to square one again saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to hire more workers.'”
In the past few months about 10% of the workers in the executive branch of state government accepted an early retirement incentive package. That’s twice as many people as had been expected. Last week, Governor Culver said he’s authorizing the hiring about 11-hundred people to ensure “essential services” in state government are maintained. Feenstra’s opposed to the Democratic governor’s hiring plan.
“I would say we shouldn’t hire any, especially in these economic times,” he says. “We have to create and work with the service agencies that we have and if we have to start putting some of these agencies together, then that’s what it takes but let’s not hire new workers.” Feenstra, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted against the early retirement plan. Feenstra says he has always doubted if any money would be saved.
“It did eliminate some jobs,” Feenstra says. “It gave people early retirements, however it was quite a golden parachute. They get $1,000 for every year they worked, plus, they get health insurance. My greatest concern was okay, so these folks retire and all of the sudden, you have to hire workers to replace them so in essence, you’re not saving a lot of money by the time you pay their golden parachute.”
Many of the retiring workers are getting a one-time payment of up to $25,000, plus their insurance is paid for up to five years. Governor Culver’s aides say the 21-hundred retirements will save the state almost $90-million. Those workers had to exit state employment by June 24th.
To quality for a bonus, a worker had to have been employed by the state for at least a decade and they had to be at least 55 years old. The early retirement bonuses will be paid in equal installments, over a five-year period.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton