A Sordid Tale

June 19, 2003

I current work as an independent consultant for the Illinois Department of Human Services. I have been on contract here since October 2000. The state elected its first democrat governor in 24 years last November and life has been very interesting ever since.

The new governor has made no bones about making drastic cuts in spending in order to combat a 4.8 billion dollar budget deficit. One of his targets is consulting; Governor Blagojevich claims that the state is spending "two to three time the market rate" for its 512 consultants. Using figures his office published it appears that the state is spending $72 million a year for these 512 people. This works out to roughly $70 per hour per consultant. The state also says that the fully loaded cost of a full-time employee is $50 per hour. No wonder the state has a budget deficit, they think that 70 is "two to three times" greater than 50.

As a consultant I understand that my time at any client is limited. Get in, do the work, get out. I'm fine with this style of working. I have been a consultant since 1997 and I have worked for manufacturing, government, and private industry in that time. In each case it has been understood that when the project was completed I would move on to something else.

At IDHS the project isn't completed, but since the state is broke they need to let us go anyway. Okay. So why then, did I get a call today from a Chicago-based recruiter looking for my skill set for a large, multi-year project in Springfield? The recruiter admitted that it was for IDHS, further he said that his firm will get new 3-year contracts provided they can bid their resources at 15-20% less than the current contracts.

I haven't been offered a chance to re-bid myself at a lower rate. In fact I have been given 90 days (500 hours) notice; my contract was extended "while we sort out what happens next." It appears from my phone call today that the extension was merely to keep staffing in place while new people could be contracted and brought into the fold. Unfortunately the Forte (Sun UDS) community is small and getting smaller all the time. I have talked to two firms this week (one I called, and the one that called me today) about Forte work in Springfield.

I explained that I would be happy to switch my contract in order to keep working here. I really don't want to relocate again if I can avoid it. The recruiter was going to double-check that he can work with me. He knew for certain that he couldn't poach state-employees for this contract, but he wasn't sure if he could work with someone already in place.

This, of course makes perfect sense, why would you want to contract a resource with several years of problem-domain knowledge, advanced levels in the various tools used, knowledge of the people and community, and already living in the area?

The only conclusion I can draw is that it isn't about the money. And that powers that be in the state aren't concerned with continuing the same level of support. They are interested in replacing anyone who was brought in under the preceding Republican administrations.

I guess I should get a big red "R" and pin it to my shirt everyday so that everyone will know I am an undesirable.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.