Keeping Our Perspective
May 14, 2009 10:15 AM
As we consider the impact of the Governor's announcement last week of layoffs and furloughs among state employees, it's important to gather as many facts as possible. So, here are some things to think about.
The Governor announced that there will be between 700 and 1,100 layoffs. Since Dane County has 56% of all state jobs, an early estimate is that we might experience around 400 to 600 layoffs here. But this is dependent on the detail regarding which agencies might be exempt and other factors, so we can't say for sure.
Of course, those layoffs will be difficult for the employees and their families. Unfortunately though, that's not the worst news in terms of the impact on our local economy. The eight days per year of furloughs amount to a 3.1% pay cut for the more than 40,000 state employees in Dane County. After all is said and done, that could translate into about $50 million of income (and spending power) taken out of our economy in each of the next two years.
At the end of the day, as tough as this is, we need to keep it in perspective. We are lucky in Madison to have state government and the University located here. While we know all too well that state and university jobs are not shielded entirely from the rest of the economy, the truth is that the blows that come with a recession fall less heavily on us then on most other parts of the state. That $50 million of lost buying power is certainly a problem, but it comes out of a base of $2.3 billion estimated state payroll in Dane County.
I grew up in West Allis and saw the impacts on that community when Allis Chalmers and other manufacturers went away. And we all know what's happening in Janesville with the loss of the General Motors plant there. There's no question that the state layoffs and furloughs will be a tough hit, but let's keep in mind that other Wisconsin communities are having an even harder time.