By Erich Wagner
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order last week authorizing furloughs and pay cuts for state employees for the coming fiscal year, but at the request of the largest union of state workers, he added a provision granting furloughed workers paid administrative leave in the following year for the same amounts.
State employees making at least $40,000 per year will be required to take three furlough days, while employees making $50,000 and $100,000 will have to take four and five furlough days, respectively. Other workers, including “24/7” employees such as correctional and police officers, making less than $40,000 will lose three days worth of pay for those and those making more will lose five days worth of pay.
But after the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) proposed a break in fiscal 2012, workers will receive paid administrative leave for the same number of days that they were furloughed or had their pay cut.
“It is not possible to achieve reductions in spending of the magnitude necessary without taking some actions that affect state employees,” the executive order said. “Substantial savings may be achieved without undue interruption of state services if state employees are required to participate in a carefully managed furlough and salary reduction plan.”
Pat Moran, AFSCME’s Maryland director, said that while the union is against furloughs, they’re much better for state workers than layoffs.
“People need to continue to contribute economically to their communities and their families, and furloughs don’t have nearly the same impact as layoffs,” Moran said. Giving state employees paid administrative leave “softens the blow” for people who’ve seen furloughs for three straight years, Moran said.
Administrative leaves “doesn’t cost any money to the state, it has no financial impact,” he said. “Since we’ve seen significant cuts over the last three years, this was a way to give people some time to spend with their families and not have an impact on the state. If I have a couple of extra days throughout the year that I could spend with my family that I might not be able to provide for financially, but instead be there physically to do things with them, that’s going to help in that matter.”