State Mulls Furloughs for Employees
January 22, 2009
That measure and the cancellation of raises in the next fiscal year may be used to tackle a $600 million budget shortfall
By Tim Hoover - The Denver Post
State employees may be forced to take furloughs to help offset a more than $600 million shortfall in the current budget year that ends in June. And it's looking more likely that state workers will receive no pay raises the next fiscal year.
Those are two scenarios being considered by the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, which is trying to cope with a more than $1 billion shortfall over the next 18 months.
Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, the chairwoman of the six-member panel, said furloughing employees is an option lawmakers must weigh in trying to balance the current year's budget. The furloughs likely would be for one day a month for the rest of the fiscal year that ends in June, Keller said.
Legislative staff are asking agencies to submit information on how much would be saved by furloughing nonessential employees. Workers in critical positions — such as Colorado State Patrol troopers, prison guards and 24-hour caregivers — would be exempt.
The state constitution also exempts judges and elected officials from taking any pay decrease during their terms in office.
During the last recession in the early part of the decade, lawmakers considered, but did not implement, furloughs. The state has more than 60,000 employees, a little more than half of whom work for colleges and universities.
The state's daily payroll is about $7.4 million, but as much as $1.9 million of that goes to essential employees who would not be furloughed, officials at the Department of Personnel and Administration said.
Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, already proposed that state employees not get performance raises in the next fiscal year, which begins in July. However, employees still were slated to get inflationary raises that would cost $43 million.
Members of the Joint Budget Committee say that seems unlikely at this stage.
"I would be very surprised to see any pay increases," said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.
Lawmakers in fiscal year 2003-04 froze salaries but gave partial pay raises for the next three years. For the past two budget years, the state has given inflationary increases and performance raises.
A spokesman for Colorado WINS, which represents more than 30,000 workers with limited collective-bargaining rights, said the organization earlier this month actually suggested furloughs as a way to save money.
"We are certainly aware of how severe the budget crisis is," said Bob Bongiovanni, a spokesman for the organization and an employee at the Department of Public Health and Environment. "We understand that everything has to be on the table."
Tim Hoover: 303-954-1626 or firstname.lastname@example.org