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Judge hears arguments against state furlough plan

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — After a lengthy court hearing Monday in which six state workers testified about how the public would suffer under a plan to furlough state workers, a judge delayed ruling on a motion to block the unpaid leave.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd said he wanted more information on the state’s financial condition to see if the state could get by without the six days of furloughs that Gov. Steve Beshear announced in July as a cost-saving measure.

John Frith Stewart, a Crestwood attorney representing the six state workers and their labor union, said in an amended complaint filed Monday that millions of dollars in state projects could be suspended and additional federal dollars to the state could be used to prevent the furloughs.

Shepherd told Dan Egbers, an attorney for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, that the state could have until next Monday to provide the court more information about the state’s finances.

When Beshear presented the furlough plan to the state Personnel Board in July, he said it would save about $24 million. As part of the two-year budget passed in May, Beshear must cut $131 million this year, in addition to 3.5 percent spending cuts already mandated for most state agencies.

Under Beshear’s plan, state government would close for three days adjacent to holiday weekends: Friday, Sept. 3, 2010 (Labor Day weekend); Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 (Veterans Day weekend); and Friday, May 27, 2011 (Memorial Day weekend).

State agencies would arrange for their workers to take three additional furlough days in the months of October, March and June, but on staggered schedules so the agencies remain open.

Egbers told the court that state Personnel Secretary Nikki Jackson will be reviewing plans submitted by state agencies for possible exemptions to the furlough. Jackson initially had said no exemptions would be made.

Since the Beshear administration announced the furloughs, some state workers — particularly those working at around-the-clock operations, such as prisons, state police and mental health facilities — have said furloughs would jeopardize the safety of workers and the general public.

The furloughs also could affect programming on the Kentucky Educational Television network, spokesman Tim Bischoff said Monday in an e-mail.

He said KET is requesting “flexibility” from the Personnel Cabinet in the implementation of the furloughs.

Without the flexibility, he said, the popular public-affairs show “Comment on Kentucky,” which usually is aired live on Friday nights, might have to be taped ahead of time when the show falls on Fridays that are scheduled for statewide furloughs. The show already is taped in advance on state holidays that fall on Fridays.

The six state workers testifying Monday — members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 62 — focused on the furloughs’ impact on safety.

Rebecca Harbin, a social service worker in Jefferson County, said she is on call seven days a week.

“If I’m off, something will suffer,” she said. “It could mean life and death to a child.”

Several also said the state wouldn’t save money by furloughing police and workers at always-open facilities because the state would have to pay overtime to other workers to replace those on furloughs.

Judge Shepherd said there are “no easy answers,” noting that if the state does not proceed with furloughs, some state workers might have to be laid off.

The Beshear administration has said 413 state workers could lose their jobs if there are no furloughs.

Filed Under: State BudgetState GovernmentSteve Beshear

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Comments

  1. HL Reader says:

    I think these state workers should be grateful to have a job at all, and quit belly-aching about 6 unpaid days. That’s their real gripe, not “safety.” They don’t represent all state workers.

  2. beagle says:

    Many of the state workers who will be forced to take unpaid leave are actually funded by federal grants. How does furloughing them help save the state anything?

  3. out west says:

    They certainly don’t represent me.

  4. Jethro Bodine says:

    I’m a state work and not on a grant.

    Six unpaid days will result in losses to my family.

    I am a tax paying state worker getting furloughed so there is enough money to pay the dead beats on welfare and those who continue to draw unemployment.

    Take my tax money, furlough me, and give it to those who are too lazy to work. Why can’t I draw unemployment on my furlough days?

  5. Joseph says:

    To answer beagle, it is all about fairness. Why should some employees be forced to take a cut in pay and others not? If some employees don’t take them, then no one should. Cut the political appointees.

  6. DDM says:

    Why don’t the legislature take a 5 or 10% cut in pay.

  7. Buck Feshear says:

    If I am not mistaken, state receipts were either up or exceeded projections last month and also for a month or two prior. This seems to indicate that the state has more money coming in and thus the furloughs are unnecessary. Beshear would be wise to rescind them, else he risk losing several thousand votes from state employees and their families. Any state worker who would vote for Beshear after he has proposed furloughs, not budgeted for raises and proposed increases in health insurance costs with poorer coverage the way he has is out of their mind. What possible reason could any state worker have to vote for him next year unless they are a brain-dead yellow dog Democrat?

  8. ScaryTimes says:

    I am really disappointed in my fellow Kentuckians!

    Many of you against the furloughs have become so short sighted you believe your well-being trumps that of your employers, the citizens of Kentucky. Federal dollars are NOT the answer. First, those are your dollars which have been confiscated from you for redistribution to…you. Second, the federal dollars are not real; as they are simply borrowed or printed by a gov’t with no idea how to solve a problem.

    If you love your commonwealth and your nation, read what happened in Greece just a few short months ago. Educate yourself about the destructive effects of selfishness and the unions.

    We are an immoral people leaving this situation to our posteriety. I am ashamed of you and of myself.

  9. Down South says:

    What’s it helping anything by furloughing State Workers. Its not saving anybodys job. If that is so, then why is the politcal personel cordinators still hiring their buddies everyday to jobs that haven’t been filled in years. Go figure, get rid of the non-merits and move on!

  10. Fed Up says:

    Get rid of the unions and that would save a lot of money. They are not needed and only cause more problems.

    ScaryTimes, get a life.

  11. observer says:

    So Gov, you lay off federally funded workers-that money doesn’t go into Ky’ economy and you don’t get tax from that money, you eliminate 24 million dollars that would turn at least 3 times in KY’s economy so that is about 75 million out out of circulation,taxation, etc. then you anger a lot of voters and their families–Just who is giving you this brilliant advice ? Ernie Fletcher ?

  12. Buck Feshear says:

    “Observer,” Fletcher would never have done anything this stupid. He got a bad rap because of one probationary employee who was let go before he achieved protection under the merit system.

  13. Gator says:

    As a former Commonwealth employee, I can tell you that the system is “BROKEN.” If the average citizen observed what takes place at the highest level, they would riot in the streets. To say that state government is political is like saying the pope is catholic. Unless there is true change, consolidate the 120 county governments into 12, cut out 50% of non-merit positions, eliminate 75% of boards and commissions, then disaster is where we are headed.

  14. […] Gov. Steve Beshear’s plan to furlough state workers six days in the upcoming fiscal year, Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Judge Phillip Shepard said there are “no easy answers” to the state’s problem […]

  15. observer says:

    Buck,
    You know there was a little bit more to the Fletcher story than you mentioned here-no, make that a WHOLE LOT MORE-Fletcher and his crew were caught breaking the law-they are lucky no one went to jail for that mess-

  16. Time for a Change says:

    Kentucky needs tax reform. The employee count is already way down from the Fletcher administration. It is time to give the remaining employees a little something to work for.

    No furloughs, no layoffs, tax reform is needed.

    Thank you

  17. Teres Anderson says:

    Why did the Governor have to decide on six days? He could have started out with three days. You people talk about how people should not gripe and appreciate their jobs. What about a young mother with two children and her husband has left her with no transportation even to get to work.

    What is to happen to her and her children. Get real…..no one wants to be forced to take days off without pay. If you think we should be so appreciative of our jobs then you take off without pay!

  18. Say What says:

    Dear HL Reader……

    Are you having to take off without pay? I don’t think you tell hard working people that they are “belly-aching.” Consider that some of these people just might have a hard time making it.

    I work in education and apparently I am belly-aching because education has not gotten raises in years.

    I was proud to be a Democrat but no vote for Brasher from me!

  19. Buck Feshear says:

    Observer,

    Please take your nostrils from Greg Stumbo’s excretory orifice. You have inhaled enough of his flatulence that it’s affected your brain if you believe all those politically motivated charges he and his office threw out there and got a biased grand jury to approve.

  20. observer says:

    Oh Buck
    You sure don’t let the facts get in the way of your rants do you ? That dog just won’t hunt and all of you sore losers just can’t get over that–I guess Watergate was a trumped up deal too huh ?

  21. Iman says:

    I agree that it is about fairness.
    All public employees should be treated same. Why can college employees remain same, including superior insurance? Many of them are grossly overpaid. UK president is proundly one of top 20 paid public presidents nationwide, to lead a 4th tier school. What a shame to poor Kentucky!

  22. Buck Feshear says:

    Observer, I do have the facts on my side. Google “Tuyen Dudinskie” + “grand jury” for starters.

  23. Bleu says:

    Jack Conways Attorney Generals office knows all about Tuyen Dudinskie [grand juror on Fletcher grand jury] and her husband Jonh Dudinskie who Greg Stumbo hired immediately after the special grand jury indicted Ernie Fletcher. The stink on John was so bad they moved him out of the AG’s office to the transportation department where he now hangs safety signs for the state.