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Posted at 1:59 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Council poised to enact unpaid furlough for city workers

By Tim Craig

The D.C. Council is poised to approve a revised 2011 budget today that calls for all non-essential city employees to take four furlough days on holidays, meaning they will not get paid time off on those days.

The proposal, part of an effort to close a $188 million shortfall, means that all 13 council members and incoming Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will also lose four days of pay.

But neither Gray nor council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large) appeared interested Tuesday in discussing the possibility of further pay cuts for council members or the mayor as they grapple with closing the shortfall.

Currently, council members earn $125,583 a year, up from $92,500 in 2006. Council members are also allowed to hold other jobs, meaning several take home hefty salaries due to positions in the private sector.

The mayor has a salary of $200,000 annually, while the council chairman makes $190,000. According to an analysis conducted last summer by the D.C. Republican Committee, the D.C. Council chairman's salary is more than what 49 states pay their governors.

Several recent studies also reveal that District officials are among the best-paid in the nation, although members often note that they act as both a state legislator and a local official.

Chiefs of staff to many council members also take home six-figure salaries.

On Tuesday, the Washington City Paper published a chart that showed that the chiefs of staff earn $85,277 to $132,00 annually.

When asked whether the council should consider cutting its pay in light of the budget shortfall, Brown noted that council members are taking a hit by being furloughed like other city employees. Gray also noted that council members last year decided to forfeit a 3 to 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to help with budget savings.

"The pay will be cut, by the furloughs," Gray said.

By Tim Craig  | December 7, 2010; 1:59 PM ET
Categories:  Budget, City Finances, D.C. Council, D.C. Employees, Kwame Brown, Tim Craig, Vincent C. Gray  
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Furloughs are not new to DC Government. They were imposed several times in the '90s. But to soften the blow for employees, the furlough days were workdays... so at least the employees got those days off, albeit unpaid.

To turn already declared non-work days (holidays) into furlough days seems unduly nasty. The government can make up the work "lost" by 4 furlough days per employee - they did it for up to 10 furlough days in the '90s, and for however many snow days last winter.

I wonder whether the contracts with DC workers - most are unionized - will permit this. If so, and this plan passes, I predict expect employee protests: work slowdowns, mass sick-outs, etc.

Posted by: nan_lynn | December 7, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

@nan_lynn: I am going to suppose that the majority of the employees of the District are, like most local jurisdiction employees, going to accept the furlough vs a pink slip. Look at Prince Georges county, I know county employees who have had close to 100 furlough days since they were imposed. That is a significant hit to the paycheck, but the paycheck is still there.

Doing this on a holiday may well have been BECAUSE the government would normally be closed and the citizens won't be EXPECTING city services. I think this deprives the city of a teachable moment to the residents. That they, too, must experience some pain, the loss of favored city services, to close deficits. We will be walking this road again very soon when we have to tackle an even greater deficit in the coming months.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 7, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day when we had furloughs we got to pick our own days. Also, I think it would go down easier if, instead of getting no pay, on say Christmas, we get an extra day off with no pay. It somehow seems like you get something out of it, like an extra day off.

Posted by: tacard1 | December 7, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

If employees will not being paid on holidays, that is not a furlough - that's a pay cut.

Posted by: DCWatcher1 | December 7, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

@tcard1: I think you are right. The whole point of the furlough is to save the city money by forcing employees to take a finite number of days off without pay during the fiscal year. However, if left to the discretion of the employees, you will more than likely be looking at the majority of the days being taken on Fridays and Mondays, where the government would be "open" but will not have the people to fulfill essential services. Rather, I believe that they should SCHEDULED around holidays or weekends where the government would just shut down and the employees would perceptually have an extra day off, albeit, without pay.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 8, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Now it's pretty clear that these guys on the council DONT WANT statehood. It would erode their power...

Posted by: citizenp77 | December 12, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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