State employee furloughs announced
All workers to forgo two days' pay; higher grades to take off two to three additional unpaid days
ANNAPOLIS—Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday signed an executive order to furlough 67,000 state employees for two to five days, depending on their pay grade.
"After collaborating with labor leaders over the last few weeks, this morning I have signed an executive order establishing a furlough and salary reduction plan for all state employees due to this deepening national recession that has us all tightening our belts at work and at home," O'Malley (D) wrote in an e-mail to state employees Tuesday.
The order will save $34 million in fiscal 2009 and comes hours before the state's Board of Revenue Estimates is expected to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget cuts for fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010.
The move would account for part of at least $200 million in cuts from the current fiscal year's budget that O'Malley is expected to present in coming weeks.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch said yesterday that they were proposing a similar furlough policy for General Assembly employees, which are not subject to gubernatorial orders.
They also were encouraging lawmakers to take furloughs, or pay back the state treasury an equivalent portion of their salaries. Because their salaries are set by the Maryland Constitution, legislators cannot be ordered to surrender any of it.
The presiding officers said the state could expect an austere budget, with revenue nearly flat from last year. Expensive items like education aid, freezes in college tuition and state teacher pension contributions could be trimmed as lawmakers try to balance the budget. By law, the Maryland budget must balance.
On teacher pensions, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett last week said he was "drawing a line in the sand" to protect teacher pensions.
"My good friend Ike Leggett said that he's going to draw a line in the sand," Miller said. "You never want to draw a line in the sand. Believe me because I've had to rub out many of them in my lifetime, and I'm going to help him rub that one out as well." Under the executive order, all employees will be required to forgo at least two days of pay, on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. The pay reduction will be spread over the remainder of fiscal 2009, which ends June 30.
Employees making more than $40,000 a year also would have to take two or three furlough days, depending on their pay level, between Jan. 14 and June 30.
Employees making less than $40,000 a year will not be furloughed.
Employees in 24/7 health and public safety positions are exempt from the pay reductions.
State employees can view the executive order and answers to frequently asked questions at www.dbm.maryland.gov.