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Thursday, June 9, 2011

MISSOURI BUDGET WOES: MoDOT Gets Go-Ahead for Massive Cuts

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MoDOT gets go-ahead for massive cuts

By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon
June 9 2011
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — By a unanimous voice vote, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Wednesday backed a plan that MoDOT Director Kevin Keith said will cut the department’s budget by $512 million by 2015.
Keith’s so-called Bolder Five Year Plan calls for the elimination of 1200 jobs by April 2013, closing more than 130 maintenance facilities, selling more than 740 pieces of equipment, and closing three department district headquarters buildings. Keith told commissioners the reason for the drastic cutbacks is that funding for transportation projects has “fallen off a cliff.”
Reduced federal highway funding, combined with the end of federal stimulus money, the ending of proceeds from a state bond issue and lower gas tax collections due to Missourians driving less means the department is receiving less money for road projects.
The plan will free  up $117 million a year that the department will use for extra flexibility as it commits $600 million a year to its roads program. Keith said that amount will allow the department to maintain current roads and bridges.
Keith told commissioners job eliminations have already begun, with just more than 400 employees leaving the department in the last year. Keith said 739 positions must be eliminated by March 31, 2013. He said he preferred to get to the 1200 jobs figure by attrition, but he couldn’t count on it.
“With the rate of attrition, 400 or so a year, we can get there,” said Keith. “But we’re going to  have folks who’s skill sets and the jobs available just won’t match up, and so we will have some layoffs, we just don’t know how many.”
The plan calls for more than 400 eliminations of mid level managers and administrators. 300 of the jobs will be culled from the two department offices in Jefferson City, the state headquarters office and the mid-Missouri district headquarters.
“When you start cutting budgets, you have to start by cutting people,” said Keith.
The most controversial cuts in the budget were the closings of the three district headquarters in Macon, Joplin and Willow Springs. City leaders from Macon and Willow Springs criticized the process used in making the cuts. The leaders said the department gave only one month’s notice that those district offices were in the cross hairs.
Rep. Randy Asbury said it appears state legislators were left out of the information loop on purpose. He said it took a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire working documents on the process. He said he received 6,000 pages of notes and other documents just last week.

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