Government needs employees to operate
One of the most important goals of Gov. Chris Christie’s time in office has been balancing New Jersey’s budget by any means necessary. But in taking such sometimes extreme austerity measures, Christie has had an interesting affect on the N.J. state government staff levels — the number of personnel across all the departments of the state government has been dwindling rapidly. At the end of 2010, there were 76,956 employees in the state government, which is 3,000 fewer employees than were working when Christie began his term in January of the same year. Three departments in particular have it especially bad right now: the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Champions of Christie point to the falling number of state employees as a sign of a smaller, smarter government. These people would do well to remember that, especially in departments as crucial as the aforementioned three, smaller does not always equal better.
In 2006, the DEP had 3,494 employees. By the end of 2010, that number had dropped significantly to 2,882. This is the lowest number of workers the DEP has had since 1986. The DOE is also at its lowest levels of employment since the 1980s, cut down to a meager 789 workers. In the span of one year, from 2009 to 2010, the DHSS lost 9 percent of its workforce, clocking in now at 1,691 employees. Obviously, some members of these departments are upset by the constant bleeding out of their workers, and we stand with them in that upset. These are three of the most important aspects of our lives that have been put under the knife. They need to be properly staffed in order to do their jobs correctly, and as things currently stand, they aren’t. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, has called the diminishing numbers “a death by a thousand cuts.” He went on to say that “not only are these cuts bad for the environment, they are also bad for the economy.” Likewise, a state report on the DOE in 2007 stated that the department was poorly staffed, which affected greatly its ability to manage all of its duties — and that was four years ago. Paul Langevin, president of the New Jersey Association of Health Care Facilities, questioned how lawmakers expected health services to operate under these conditions, saying, “Every year we pass more regulations, more laws and now we have less workforce.”
Perhaps Christie’s administration should consider these facts before deciding to cut more. Curiously enough, the governor’s office is one of the few departments that has seen an increase in employees in recent years. We’d like to know why these other crucial departments are being passed over while Christie gets the help he wants.