Budget plan would furlough state workers 5 days

State workers could lose five days paid leave under a budget proposed by the House Ways and Means committee.

The panel approved an amendment Monday which would require state employees to be furloughed five days -- all to be taken on state holidays. The move is intended to save money in a year that the state is facing a half-billion budget gap due to the national recession. The panel has also proposed furloughing teachers for five days.

The House rejected an amendment which would have required agencies lay off any contract workers, working retirees or those enrolled in the Teachers and Employees Retention Incentive program, or TERI, before furloughing state workers. However, the House budget would close the TERI program to new participants on July 1.

The TERI program was designed to retain experienced teachers and other employees, but allow them to begin accruing retirement benefits. The program has been criticized as too expensive and preventing younger workers from earning promotion because retired workers have not left their positions.

Education, the state’s biggest expenditure, looks as if it will take the biggest budget hit. Furloughing teachers will save the state $100 million. Other proposals will impact teacher pay across the state, most notably ending a $7,500 annual bonus for National Board Certified teachers. Teachers would have to complete the program by July 1 to become eligible for the ten-year bonus.

The House budget also limits new limits on a $275 reimbursement all teachers receive for purchasing supplies. Districts can reimburse teachers based on money available.

Substitute teachers will have to receive background checks if the House budget is approved, and part-time employees could lose their medical and other fringe benefits.

The budget also allows schools to suspend some testing, textbook purchases and printing report cards. Districts would be allowed to send out report cards electronically unless a parent requests a written copy.

The Ways and Means committee will debate the budget this week, with the full House taking up the spending plan on March 16.