Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Employment Commissiion May Have to Seek Appropriation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Employment Commissiion May Have to Seek Appropriation

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter Continued federal budget cuts could force the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to go for a state appropriation for the first time next year, according to Bob Funston, commission executive director.

The agency budget for employment services and unemployment insurance, funded totally by Uncle Sam, has declined 13 percent in four years - from $31.2 million in Fiscal 1987 to $27.17 million this year - and the number of employees shrunk 24 percent in three years, from 868 in Fiscal 1988 to 659 this year.

"Most of the fat's gone, most of the muscle's gone, and they're beginning to hack away at bone," Funston said at the commission's meeting on Tuesday.

"Every penny of this comes out of the federal unemployment trust fund, and it's the highest it's ever been," he said, but Congress is allowing astronomical balances in trust funds to offset the federal budget deficit.

Funston said he plans to meet with representatives of the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, governor's office and lawmakers to discuss existing programs prior to targeting an appropriation amount.

The Oklahoma State Employment Service has 659 employees, and offices in 37 cities. Funston said the agency has automated and cut corners in most possible ways, including utilizing temporary employees where needed as part of the total authorized positions.

Ironically, the more efficient the agency gets, the more federal officials believe the budget can be reduced, he said.

"We can continue to do this, and we can live with these kind of cuts, but it's going to affect service," he said.

Funston said from 725 to 750 employees would be desirable to keep services at the current level.

"We have stayed away in the past from asking for money from the state Legislature," he said, but the commission programs are among the hardest-hit by federal cuts.

"The time has come to ask," he said. …

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