Local Politics

Bill would allow furloughs of state workers

Posted March 20, 2009

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— Some lawmakers are backing a bill to allow furloughs of state employees in an effort to avoid the prospect of layoffs as the budget deficit grows.

House Bill 708 would enable the governor, the Supreme Court chief justice and legislative officials to place people on temporary, unpaid leave to save money when "significant" deficits are projected. The furloughs would be a "last resort," according to the bill.

North Carolina flag, NC flag, state flag, N.C. flag Lawmakers back bill for state worker furloughs

Gov. Beverly Perdue has recommended eliminating more than 1,000 government jobs to help erase a projected $3.4 billion deficit for fiscal 2009-10, which starts in July.

Lawmakers say they find the idea of furloughs more palatable than layoffs, but Perdue said furloughs suggest a poor state economy and would hurt the state's efforts to recruit business.

"She would prefer not to go down that path because she thinks it doesn't send the right signal. She doesn't want to send a signal that portions of state government aren't operating at any given time," Perdue spokesman David Kochman said.

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, a primary sponsor of the bill, said furloughs could save the state $130 million to $140 million a year. The unpaid days could be rotated through departments so that services aren't affected, he said.

At least nine states have proposed furloughs to help ease tight budgets. Forty-six states face budget shortfalls this year.

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles and chancellors of the system's 16 campuses have already requested legislative approval for furloughs to avoid cutting faculty and staff and, in turn, damaging academic programs.

The UNC system would receive $168 million less than expected in the next fiscal year under Perdue's budget recommendations.

Bowles said furloughs could save jobs – he couldn't provide an estimate – and would put North Carolina in better shape when the recession ends.

"I think our people would a lot more prefer to give up a couple of days' pay, as opposed to seeing us lose some of the people they work beside who we are going to need when we come out of this recession," he said. "There's a lot of cost in letting somebody go, and there is more cost in recruiting them to come back."

The UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to eliminate 76 degree programs across the university system. Most were cut because of low enrollment, but Bowles said budget considerations did factor into the decision on some of the programs.

"You will see more of that in the year to come because we simply can't afford to be all things to all people,” he said.

Under the House bill, employees could take up to 20 unpaid days per year. "Essential employees" would be exempt from furloughs, as would anyone earning less than $30,000 a year.

More than 95,000 employees are subject to the State Personnel Act, including 23,600 at universities.

A furloughed employee would still be covered by the State Health Plan and wouldn't lose any accrued benefits in the state retirement system, according to the bill.

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  • scoutmomof2 Mar 20, 2009

    "Instead of taxing my longevity check (bonus) 90% they are going to tax it 100%. now they want to take a month from my pay check. Let me stay at home and get 2/3rd's of my pay for doing squat. I will work off the books planting tobaco and digging sweet potatoes."

    Here here, I too am a State Employee. If they laid me off they would have to give me at least 30 days advance notice, pay me for the month of vacation/bonus days I have, 2 months severence for the time I have in and another 2 monthes because of my age. It would be six months before I could even sign up for unemployment. But it would cost the state a lot more then furloughing me where I will not make enough to pay my bills and loose everything now. Tax my longevity 100 percent and have you seen what they want to do to the Health Plan?

    Lay me off and pay me the money. I will start a small minority business and contract back to the State like several other "new" positions in my Department in the last month.

  • woodrowboyd2 Mar 20, 2009

    whats more special about a state worker than a worker like the rest of us
    take your hits and be like me

  • whoc13 Mar 20, 2009

    Well since all of the rest has been covered about State Employees lets talk about the retirees who have retired and are double dipping in the state budget. We as taxpayers should see that they put an end to this first

  • gegesbeachhouse Mar 20, 2009

    What the State of N.C. needs is for all of their State Employees to fail to show up for work (consider it a furlough day) on one particular day. Imagine no teachers, no correctional officers, no judges or other court personnel to keep the local county jails from bursting at the seams, no State Credit Unions to open! It would be great to hear the reaction of the powers that be and definitely send a message! They can't fire us.... after all... there is a hiring freeze and they can't refill our positions. There are several people that I work in the same general building with that would have lost their jobs due to performance but there is no way to fill those positions. We are therefore working with people who have the luxury of knowing that it will take the ultimate screw up to get fired

  • stevesdesk Mar 20, 2009

    Instead of taxing my longevity check (bonus) 90% they are going to tax it 100%. now they want to take a month from my pay check. Let me stay at home and get 2/3rd's of my pay for doing squat. I will work off the books planting tobaco and digging sweet potatoes.

  • TheBullCity Mar 20, 2009

    If we are in such dire straights, why did UNC create 7 new IT positions this week?

  • Marcello Mar 20, 2009

    Perhaps our legislators who proposed this bill could complete their long and short sessions in the time allotment to save a few dollars. Oh and about that per diem?

    While I agree that there are State employees who are not pulling their weight and working/earning what they are being paid, I dare say that there are more who are working hard and diligently on a daily basis.

    If the State would run itself more like a business and be accountable for the dollars that go out and about maybe the State would not be in the shape it is in at the moment. Special interests? Pork? Our elected officials who "owe" for being elected? Let's have a little honesty here. It is not your rank and file State employee who makes the financial decisions for each State Agency and State Government.

    Yes I am a State employee, a citizen of North Carolina and a tax payer. And I'm not happy. Oh well. I'll do what I have to do or what is mandated for me to do. But I would like for this to be fair.

  • Chipperoo Mar 20, 2009

    "She would prefer not to go down that path because she thinks it doesn't send the right signal. She doesn't want to send a signal that portions of state government aren't operating at any given time," Perdue spokesman David Kochman said.

    Being a state employee, I would rather go 20 days without pay than to loose my job altogether. Everyone does not make the kind of money she does and loosing 20 days of pay would hurt but it would not be as bad as not having a job at all. Maybe some of the ones that are making in excess of $100k a year would forfeit a few days pay, that would be enough so us lower wage workers would not have to. And what kind of message does it send about the state's economic situation to lay off 1000 plus workers (which are usually the ones that cannot afford to loose their jobs). She is making some really bad decisions especially paying Dr. Harrison over $250k to do a job that someone was elected to do at half the cost. No common sense is being used there.

  • only 4 me 2 c Mar 20, 2009

    Raptor6.... It's a no brainer, yes, most would take the 20 days furlough as opposed to no job, but there are other options out there to explore.

  • Raptor06 Mar 20, 2009

    Only 4 me 2 c

    They can be furloughed for 20 days or be permanently furloughed for 365 days. Which one do you think folks would rather take?

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