Tennessee will begin mailing out layoff notices this week to 853 state employees, Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday.
5 p.m. Report | Noon Report
The Democratic governor said another 317 layoff notices will be sent out over the next six months as the state shuts down the Clover Bottom long-term care facility for the mentally disabled in Nashville.
One-hundred forty-seven positions in children's services and 96 in mental health are being eliminated.
I do not believe these layoffs will directly affect the services to any of the people who need them, said Bredesen.
Bredesen said the first round of layoffs are being made for "business reasons" amid budget pressures, mostly in the intellectual disabilities and children's services fields.
"It's unfortunate this has to happen, but I'm just trying so hard to guide the state through this very difficult economic time," Bredesen said. "To do that we've got to keep our expenses matched to the revenues that come in."
Workers will be given three months notice that their jobs are being eliminated. They will also be paid $3,200 in severance and be eligible for college tuition credits.
"So much of this stuff has been deferred because of things like the stimulus," Bredesen said.
The layoff notices have to be sent out now so the positions will be vacant by the time the state's next budget year begins on July 1, he said.
Tennessee employees about 45,000 full-time workers.
A spokesman with the Tennessee State Employees Association said the group did not want to comment until after a meeting with state Human Resources Commissioner Deborah Story on Wednesday afternoon.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said he will work over the next 90 days to try to avert some of the cuts, but warned that opposition from Republicans to Bredesen's revenue proposals could lead to even more layoffs.
Bredesen's proposals would raise about $49 million and save about 200 jobs among prosecutors, public defenders, foresters and probation and parole officers.
The proposals include lifting sales tax exemptions on the first $15 of cable bills and eliminating a tax break on free hotel breakfasts.
Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, have voiced opposition to the tax measures but have argued that the jobs can be preserved in other ways.
Clover Bottom is the state's oldest long-term care facility for the mentally disabled. Closing the facility is projected to save about $36 million per year in state and federal dollars. Officials say residents can be moved to another state-run facility in East Tennessee or to private facilities.