Montana gov: Budget concern behind 4 job cuts

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 12:18 PM

Four economic development jobs will be eliminated by the end of the year in a move to save $380,000 amid bleak state finances, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's administration announced.

An increasingly negative budget picture was behind the decision to eliminate the regional development officer positions at the state Commerce Department and more "austerity measures" could be coming, the administration said Wednesday.

Budget director David Ewer said there is no specific target for reduction in terms of dollars or jobs, but that they were "certainly looking at possibilities case by case."

"I am also looking at the bigger picture of the revenue situation, and what kind of recommendation I may have to make to the governor," he said. "Obviously we have some time, but so far we have been in a declining revenue situation for many, many months."

Tax collections have, in recent months, consistently been coming in below original estimates. Analysts have said the shortfall could eventually eat away at the $282.4 million cushion originally built into the two-year state budget earlier this year.

"I have a greater concern today than after the Legislature adjourned," Ewer said.

Montana has avoided the deficits and drastic cuts seen in many other states. National reports consistently rank Montana as one of the few states where the recession has not sapped coffers.

"We will continue to be accountable for every dollar," Schweitzer said in a release. "This is not the first austerity measure that I have implemented and there will be more."

The governor previously directed agencies to cut out-of-state travel by 35 percent.

The four affected jobs were located in Helena, Missoula, Circle and Havre. The state said the employees could be available for other state job openings in different locations.

The Department of Commerce said there will be no reduction in economic development assistance to local communities. The agency said it will sponsor training sessions across Montana for local partners.

Tony Preite, Commerce Department director, said the reduction makes sense when weighed against the state budget concerns.