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Rhode Island Announces State Worker Furloughs

1 min readBy: Joseph Bishop-Henchman

Furloughing state government workers have been a frequently used solution in the current state budget situation, with 16 states requiring state employees to take one or more unpaid days off. (NCSL has a list of states here.) Of course, collective bargaining rules have limited states’ ability to fire employees or reduce salaries on anything other than seniority, so furloughs seem to be the only method open to reduce costs if you want to keep the best performers.

On Monday, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri outlined his plan for furloughs:

The plan calls for about 80 percent of the 12,970 state employees to stay home without pay on 12 specified dates between now and the end of the fiscal year in June – a shutdown plan that amounts to a 4.6-percent pay cut for most.[…]

Critical services, including 911 operations, state police patrols and prison guard rotations, will not be affected by the plan. The state’s colleges and its university don’t plan to close either, though they will be required to trim their budgets by $4.3 million, the equivalent of what they would have saved had they participated.[…]

While the governor can shut down state government on his own, he needs legislative approval for a second piece of his plan: withholdingWithholding is the income an employer takes out of an employee’s paycheck and remits to the federal, state, and/or local government. It is calculated based on the amount of income earned, the taxpayer’s filing status, the number of allowances claimed, and any additional amount of the employee requests. the last $32.5 million in promised car-taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. reimbursements to cities and towns, which are already reeling from the elimination of a $55-million revenue-sharing program earlier this year.

In California, the 3-day-a-month furlough program for 210,000 state employees is saving the government about $1.3 billion, equivalent to a 14% pay cut. Opponents say this is cutting into state services, such as tax collection and disability payment processing. But if it’s across-the-board or nothing, what other options are there?