Furloughs for state employees - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Furloughs for state employees

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MADISON (WKOW) --  Governor Doyle announced Thursday most of Wisconsin's 60,000 state employees will receive furloughs of more than three weeks over the next two years to help the state cope with a ballooning budget deficit.

A spokesperson for Doyle said the unpaid days off would include employees of the University of Wisconsin.

Doyle said the furloughs would total 16 days to be scheduled between this summer, and the summer of 2011.

"Everyone is paying the price and suffering on some level,"   Doyle said, as he referenced "the reckless behavior on Wall Street" as causing additional recessionary woes here.

Doyle said some employees at facilities such as prisons and health care centers which must be staffed around the clock will be exempt from furlough.

In addition to the furloughs, Doyle proposed rescinding two percent pay raises for nearly 10,000 state workers, most of them managerial.

Department of Administration officials said as a result of weaker than expected tax collections in April, the state's budget deficit has grown by as much as $1.5 billion.   Coupled with a previous budget deficit estimate, officials said Wisconsin faces a total budget shortfall of more than $6 billion dollars.

Doyle said at least 400 state workers could lose jobs over the next two years, as the state also copes with a $400 million shortfall in the current budget, which ends this summer.   State law requires a balanced budget at the time of a budget's conclusion.

State officials said renegotiation of labor contracts with unions representing state workers might be able to forestall the job layoffs.    Wisconsin State Employees Union executive director Mart Beil said talks with the governor continue.

With individual state agencies facing as much as a 5% percent cut in budgets, Doyle estimated a total of 1,100 layoffs if there was no agreement with unions on reduced compensation.

Doyle said in order to manage the recent, additional state revenue downturn,  state funds for schools, the medicare program and local governments would also be cut.

Doyle vowed not to raise income and sales taxes in response to declining revenues to protect "middle class families."

The governor is not allowed to take furlough, but said he would return his pay for eight days each of the next two years.

Department of Natural Resources grant specialist Shelley Fox said a furlough will crimp her family budget.   Fox said she's a single mother working a part time job in addition to her state post.

Fox said staff reductions will make it difficult for her and colleagues to secure grant money to clean up and rehabiliate contaminated, neglected properties.

"I guess we're just all expected to suck it up and continue to do the work."  

In a statement, Assembly minority leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said Doyle's cost cutting has been tardy and more state programs be trimmed.

State officials said more than two dozen other states experienced similar, significant drop offs in tax revenues, resulting in austerity measures, including hundreds of layoffs of state workers in Massachusetts and furloughs in several other states. 

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