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Extended Holiday Weekend for Furloughed KY State Workers

September 3, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky's governor is taking a cue from a familiar business practice in the private sector: mandating time off without pay. Today is 'day one' of Gov. Steve Beshear's six-day furlough plan. The rest are scattered throughout the fiscal year. The governor's office says scheduling the furlough day around a holiday weekend limits the furlough's effect on service delivery while increasing operational savings.

Lee Jackson, president of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, says even though his group initially opposed the furloughs, he concedes it's a much better option than the backup plan.

"We have tried to communicate to our members that we fought a hard battle, we came up short, but we prevented layoffs."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62 filed suit to temporarily block the governor's furlough plan. On Thursday, the Franklin Circuit judge denied that request.

Wanda Mitchell-Smith, the group's political action representative, says the plan hurts workers who can least afford time off without pay.

"Any type of furlough, particularly for those state employees who are making $30,000 and below, is very detrimental to their income. And, to say the least, about what may or may not occur for their retirement."

Mitchell-Smith says the union isn't totally against furloughs, but she asserts that higher-paid state workers should have been asked to voluntarily take time off without pay first. Another concern she has is that taxpayers will go without some necessary services that their dollars support.

"We have quite a few state employees who are guided by federal design, and they get federal monies. If they're going to be furloughed, then where do those monies go? And what does federal law say about using those monies when they are not there?"

The six-day furlough plan is expected to save $24 million over the course of the fiscal year, and it will prevent the layoffs of more than 400 state workers. Some facilities that provide 24/7 services, mental health personnel, corrections staff and select public safety officials are exempt from the furlough.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY