State Personnel Director Jackie Graham said state department officials had already called her about getting training for instituting layoffs. She said agencies have few options for reducing spending because they've already gone through two years of budget cuts and the new order comes with half of this fiscal year already gone.
"When you cut and cut and cut, the only thing left is salaries," she said.
Officials in Calhoun County had similar reactions to the announcement.
Reached late Friday afternoon, Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks was shocked to hear about the extent of the cuts.
He said they will probably result in the lay-off of another employee at the county courthouse.
And that’s on top of losing half of his staff when the courts lost $13.1 million in funding at the start of the fiscal year.
Currently, 12 employees run a courthouse that needs – at minimum – 23 workers to operate efficiently, according to a study conducted by the National State Center for Courts.
“10 percent is pretty dramatic; that’s pretty painful,” Hooks said. “This is something we did not anticipate.”
Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said the cuts would likely put more pressure on the Sheriff’s Office, especially in regard to potential court personnel and state trooper reductions that would increase the workload and burden at the county level.
“I don’t know where all the state money is going, but certain essential services need to be funded in order for society to function,” Amerson said, specifically highlighting schools, courts and highways. “You just come to a point when they got to look at other options.”
Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner was unaware of the governor’s announcement when reached at 5:35 p.m.
“Any time there is a cut at one level, that will trickle down,” Joiner said. “That will have an effect on us, but I just haven’t had time to process what all that effect will be.”
The chairman of the House General Fund budget committee, Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, predicted hundreds of state employees will be laid off. He said the 10.6 percent cut will feel like 20 percent because it has to be accomplished in the last six months of the fiscal year instead of spread over the whole year.
Alabama's Constitution prohibits deficit spending and requires the governor to order across-the-board cuts when appropriations exceed revenues.
Bentley said several factors have put a dent in the $1.56 billion General Fund budget, including the cost of recovery from killer tornadoes that hit the state and reduced earnings from state investments. That left about a $170 million shortfall.
"Just as families must reduce their spending when money is limited, government must also reduce its spending," Bentley said.
Bentley's order runs through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The order does not affect the state education budget, which funds public schools and colleges.
State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan notified his 300 employees Friday that their salaries could be reduced up to 7.5 percent because of the spending cuts. McMillan said he had cut the Agriculture Department's staff by 100 since taking office in January 2011, and he couldn't lay off any more employees without hindering essential functions, including food safety inspections and blood tests that are required for Alabama's poultry industry.
He said he had already cut some essential functions, including eliminating all cattle theft investigators except for one part-time worker.
Graham said the Agriculture Department is the only department that has sought and received approval from the state Personnel Board to use pay cuts instead of layoffs.
A year ago, Bentley reduced the fiscal 2011 General Fund budget by 15 percent. And a year before that, then-Gov. Bob Riley trimmed the fiscal 2010 General Fund budget by 10 percent.
State agencies board, courts and other non-education programs employed 35,993 people when the current fiscal year started Oct. 1. That was down 1,645 people, or 4.4 percent, from a year earlier, primarily because of budget cuts.
Associated Press writer Bob Johnson and Star staff writers Brian Anderson, Patrick McCreless and Cameron Steele contributed to this report.