Anticipating hardships from job-killing budget cuts

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Just how vulnerable is your community to the severe budget cuts Minnesota’s Legislature is considering?

Putting community service cuts aside, we decided to look just at the job losses. Economic figures in Minnesota show that legislation calling for a five percent cut in state employment will spillover and result in 30,000 lost jobs in both the public and private sectors.

Because Ramsey County hosts much of state government’s activities—and big cuts there will have a detrimental ripple effect through the metro—we honed in on its workforce numbers, as tallied by the county’s Policy Analysis and Planning Office.

Mary Theresa Karcz, senior policy analyst for the county government tells us Ramsey County had 50,687 government jobs, or 16.1 percent of all 314,407 jobs in the county, as of 2010’s third quarter, the last period for which data are available.

Of those public sector jobs, the federal government had 3,596 employees (1 percent of total jobs). State government accounts for 24,889 employees (8 percent) and local governments—county and municipalities—account for 22,201 jobs (7 percent).

Public schoolteachers, staff and educational officials are second largest category, accounting for 30 percent of Ramsey County’s public sector jobs.

Not all these employees live in Ramsey County, of course. But with neighboring counties serving as homes to commuting public employees, Ramsey County and the metro area are certainly in danger of economic reversals if 5 percent or more of state employees are turned out of work in the next biennium.

Many of these positions are held by professional, well-educated people who own homes, pay local taxes, shop at local stores and support the entertainment and cultural activities that have made the Twin Cities a valuable place to live.

Wholesale losses of these jobs and fellow citizens should send shockwaves to business leaders and policymakers. An unbalanced approach to our state budget crisis that targets these middle class people and their purchasing power should be viewed as a serious threat to the state and local economies.

Perhaps saddest of all, this threat is sell-inflicted by lawmakers willing to sacrifice the many for the privileged few. These numbers serve as a reminder that we need a balanced approached to closing our deficit.