The Spokesman-Review

Gregoire signs furlough bill

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill that will order thousands of state workers to take 10 days off without pay through the middle of 2011.

The bill is one of the cost-cutting measures approved by the Legislature this year in the face of a $2.8 billion shortfall in the state’s general fund. The furloughs could cut some $50 million in wage and salary expenses from the general fund.

Nearly 12,500 state workers will be required to take days off without pay unless their management comes up with another way to match the savings from furloughs.

Gregoire vetoed one section of the bill, which required a set amount — $10 million — in savings from managers through the furloughs. Gregoire said that wasn’t equitable, and could have resulted in extra furlough days among managers to reach that specified amount.

“This is about equity,” she said, adding everyone should share the sacrifice.

But some departments are exempt from the furlough law, including the state patrol, prisons, child protective services, academic staff at state colleges and universities, state liquor stores and parks. The first furlough day is July 12. (For the full list of dates and exempt departments, see Spin Control.)

While most bill-signings are attended by sponsors and other people ready to celebrate a new law’s passage, no one showed up to take credit or applaud the enactment of the furlough bill. Gregoire signed it and had no one to accept the ceremonial signing pen.

Marty Brown, the director of the Office of Financial Management, said the state will find ways to notify the public what state offices are closed in advance of the furlough days, just as it does for holidays that are celebrated by the state by not local or federal government.

“We’ll have to start way earlier,” he added, because most furlough days don’t coincide with events most people will recognize as holidays.



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