By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–A little over two weeks after Governor Bentley declared proration, the Alabama State House begins to feel the effects. Those that attend the State House on a regular basis may have noticed that there are fewer security officers than before.
Proration has caused a reduction in contracted security staff as well as possible furloughs of House and Senate staff.
Secretary of the House Pat Harris said that they have also had to stop any expenditures on office supplies, stationary and reduce the payments of contracted equipment such as copy machines and computer systems. The contract with the security staff was renewed but with fewer officers required.
When asked what caused such major cuts Harris replied, “The Governor declaring proration. We were under-budgeted at the beginning of the year and then we were hit with 10.6 percent proration so we have got to cut costs. [Security] was just one of the places we had to cut costs.”
He went on to say, “This is not the only place we had to cut costs. We are not purchasing any more stationary, business cards or office supplies for the [administrative] offices. We are reducing payments for service contracts for the computer systems and for the Xerox machines. We are discussing a furlough program for employees. We are looking at every possible way we can to cut costs.”
Five or six officers were retained because of training. “We kept 2 that were authorized to carry firearms. We kept 2 or 3 more because they were trained on the x-ray machines that monitors people coming in and out of the building,” said Harris.
He said that the vacant slots will be filled in by Senate and House part-time security employees.
“We saved about $120,000 through the end of the [fiscal] year,” Harris said referring to the savings in security.
He said that the overall savings resulting from all of the cuts is estimated at about $300,000 which is substantially short. “We are about $4 million in shortfall just in the House and Senate operating budget,” he said.
An effort to continue costs cuts in ongoing. Possible staff furloughs may begin soon and last until as late as September.
“I think it is important that they understand that this is an institution of government, it is not an agency. It is required by the constitution that the legislature provide the service. If the Legislature does not fund itself then that service can not be provided to the people that elect these members to come up here,” said Harris. “It is sad that a state as poor as we are is not in a position to fully fund itself so that it can provide the services that the people deserve.”
More drastic cuts are expected in the 2012 budget as the 2013 budget is being discussed in House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.