Budget Proposal Gives Governor New Power

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  • Governor Jim Doyle testifying on Capitol Hill. | Photo: TODAY'S TMJ4

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State workers could be moved from agency to agency at the whim of a high-level executive branch bureaucrat under Gov. Jim Doyle's budget.

The proposal, tucked away in the 1,743-page bill, gives the power to permanently move state employees to the secretary of the Department of Administration. That person, currently Michael Morgan, is appointed by the governor.

The idea is all about being more efficient, said Department of Administration spokeswoman Linda Barth. In some cases, people in different state agencies do work in similar fields and should be consolidated into the same office, Barth said.

As an example, restaurant and food inspections are done at the Department of Health Services and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Barth said. In cases like that, it makes sense to have similar work done within the same agency, she said.

Currently, the DOA secretary can temporarily move state employees from agency to agency. Doyle's budget would allow them to make the moves permanent.

Marty Biel, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, which represents state workers, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.

Shifting state employees like that takes the power of deciding how many people should be within each agency away from the Legislature and gives it to the governor, said Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.

"The Legislature alone has the power to approve spending additional state dollars to increase positions for an agency," he said. "If an agency needs to add additional positions for efficiency or transfer personnel to fill a void, then bring the suggestion to the Legislature where the public can review the reasons. No motive justifies avoiding public scrutiny."

The idea also raises concerns about abuse, said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

"Obviously that's problematic if that's the way it's used," he said.

There are no estimates as to how many workers would be affected or how much money it may save, Barth said. She wouldn't say whether the move would result in workers losing their jobs, but Doyle has said he does not envision any layoffs of state employees as a result of his budget.

Those reassigned under the proposal would be entitled to the same salary and benefits they had in their old position.

All 17 executive branch departments and 11 independent agencies, where the vast majority of the roughly 67,000 state employees work, would be affected.

The University of Wisconsin System is also included, but Barth said that's because it falls under the definition of independent state agencies. Others in that category include the Public Service Commission and State Historical Society.

Interchanging state workers with university employees is not envisioned, Barth said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)