published Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Bredesen rejects furloughs for state workers

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tuesday that he considered — but ultimately rejected — shutting the doors of state government once every other week as an alternative to laying off more than 1,000 state employees.

The Democratic governor said after a speech to the Tennessee State Employees Association that the furlough option would have idled government operations on 24 Fridays a year, and would have made up the equivalent of a 10 percent pay cut for all of state employees.

Bredesen said he would rather “ask 1,000 people to find other jobs than to hit all 45,000 state employees with a salary cut of that kind of magnitude.”

Other options like limiting furloughs to those making more than $80,000 would not have generated the savings needed to help address the state’s budget woes, Bredesen said.

“You can’t get there from here in terms of the money without getting into a much broader range of employees,” Bredesen said.

Robert O’Connell, co-interim executive director of the TSEA, told the governor that state workers are “grateful” for his inclusion of a 3 percent bonus in his budget proposal.

But O’Connell asked Bredesen to consider trimming back the bonus to 2 percent and to instead use the remaining $55 million to prevent any layoffs for a year.

“A year from now may be a better day,” O’Connell said. “We ask you, would you consider doing that?”

The governor appeared uninterested in O’Connell’s suggestion.

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