As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio EPA has experienced a drop in revenue attributable to reduced fees collected associated with its various programs due to the recession. Governor Kasich has not proposed any fee increases to restore the loss in funding.
Fee increases are seen as additional direct taxes on business which runs counter to the Governor theme of restoring a pro-business environment to Ohio. Here is the discussion of the budget impacts reported in the Columbus Dispatch:
Since 2005, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has relied on fees it collects from businesses to fight pollution and clean the state’s air, land and water.
It’s an arrangement that worked pretty well until the recession hit. EPA officials hoped to collect $130 million this fiscal year, but estimate they’ll fall short by $21.4million.
That led to the proposed 11.8 percent overall spending cut in Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget plan, which begins July 1.
The article reports that the loss in revenue will not lead to layoffs, but Ohio EPA will eliminate 14 vacant positions. From some Ohio EPA staff I have talked to the Agency will also experience a slow attrition because it will not filling vacant positions with departures or retirements.
The Collective Bargaining Bill (S.B. 5) is also having an impact on the Agency beyond the changes to the law. It has accelerated retirements of long time Agency employees who fear that S.B. 5 is the first step toward additional changes to the State’s retirement system (PERS). Long-time employee (30 years of experience or more) are leaving in hopes of locking retirement benefits under the current structure.
The loss of institutional knowledge will have a greater impact than the elimination of vacant positions or a de facto hiring freeze. Staff with thirty years of experience have managed numerous challenging sites, permits and issues. They also understand the history behind various environmental programs.
While young staff can bring a much needed fresh perspective to management. Experienced staff are often the most capable problem solvers.
The cuts and loss of experienced staff also coming at a time when U.S. EPA continues to place more and more work on State EPAs. The loss of staff couples with additional demands means Ohio EPA will need to do even more with less…to borrow a phrase from former Governor Voinovich.
(Chart from Dispatch Article)