Md. Employees Face Up to 10 Days Unpaid Leave
Maryland state employees will be forced to take as many as 10 days of unpaid leave as part of a new round of budget cuts that Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to propose this week, aides said.
The $470 million in mid-year cuts that O'Malley (D) is expected to formally propose Wednesday will also include reductions in state aid to local governments and additional cuts to state agencies. The latest round of cuts is part of an ongoing effort to close a $700 million shortfall in the state's $13 billion budget that emerged just weeks into the new fiscal year, as tax revenue continues to lag in the bad economy.
Under O'Malley's plan, state government would shut down non-essential services for five days during the remaining 10 months of the fiscal year. Most state employees would forgo pay on those days, resulting in a roughly 2 percent reduction in their salaries.
State employees would also be forced to take as many as five additional furlough days, with higher-paid employees required to take more unpaid leave than their lower-paid counterparts.
Unlike a furlough plan implemented last year, employees that provide round-the-clock services, including correctional officers and state troopers, could also be required to take unpaid leave, aides said. Those employees would take fewer days off, however. Additional concessions have been built in for state employees making less than $40,000.
The plan, as described by O'Malley administration officials, would save more than $60.million this year. That amount will grow if leaders of the judiciary and General Assembly also require their employees to take unpaid leave. O'Malley cannot order those employees to do so.
Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME Maryland, the labor union that represents the largest number of state workers, said he had not seen a finalized plan from O'Malley. But Moran made it clear that unions are not happy with the furloughs.
"The bottom line is furloughs are not something we view as a positive," Moran said. "They will have negative ramifications on services in a number of ways."
Representatives of O'Malley's administration have been negotiating the planned furloughs with union leaders in recent weeks but are not required to reach an agreement to implement them.
The furlough plan will be part of the package that O'Malley presents to the Board of Public Works on Wednesday. The three-member board is authorized to cut the state budget when the legislature is not in session.
The largest savings, about $250 million, will come from reductions in state aid to local governments.
In a speech this month to county leaders, O'Malley said cuts were likely to local health services, police departments, community colleges and road maintenance.
O'Malley also suggested cuts in "disparity grants" that the state makes to Baltimore and seven counties, including Prince George's. The grants are intended to help jurisdictions that cannot raise as much money in per-capita income taxes as more affluent counties.
O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, has largely resisted cutting aid to local government in previous rounds of budget cuts. But the aid -- which amounts to 40 percent of the state's general fund budget -- has become an increasingly attractive target as the economic downturn continues.
During this year's legislative session, lawmakers lopped off almost $162 million in local road funding, nearly a quarter of the aid counties were expecting from the state. Any cuts O'Malley proposes Wednesday will come on top of that hit.
O'Malley plans to brief legislative leaders on the latest round of cuts Tuesday morning.
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