Lawmaker proposes 16 furlough days for state workers to save money

  • Fri Jan 15th, 2010 11:10pm
  • News

By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer

OLYMPIA — Furloughs could be coming to state government starting in March.

Legislation introduced Friday calls for temporary layoffs of workers in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government one day each month for the next 16 months. The first unpaid day off would be March 12 and the last would be June 10, 2011.

Senate Democratic leadership estimate the proposal will affect tens of thousands of employees and save the state up to $100 million by the end of the biennium budget in mid-2011.

Workers in many agencies are exempted. These include correctional officers, Washington State Patrol troopers and enforcement officers for the gambling, liquor control board and fish and wildlife commissions. State parks would stay open, state ferries operate and college classes continue, though employees in other aspects of those agencies would be furloughed.

Public school teachers would not be affected by the legislation.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, is part of a package of cost-cutting legislation Senate Democrats hope to act on next week. Other bills deal with axing boards and commissions and continuing a freeze on general salary increases for state workers.

“It is encouraging to see Sen. Prentice introduce this proposal to help start the conversation about ways to reduce government costs,” said Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform of the Washington Policy Center.

“Since state unions have been reluctant to be part of the solution by reopening their contracts, lawmakers are being forced to explore other personnel cost savings ideas,” he said.

Senate Bill 6503 is set for a public hearing Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Prentice is the committee’s chairwoman.

Since late 2008, California has imposed furloughs on some of its state workers. However, late last month a judge invalidated them for thousands of workers who are not paid solely with funds from that state’s general fund.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.