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Tomblin says state worker furlough bill a precautionary step

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Tomblin says state worker furlough bill a precautionary step
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the bill introduced Wednesday that would allow him to furlough state workers was “purely precautionary.”

But Tomblin said it’s a move he believes he must prepare for if there’s no agreement on a new state budget by July 1.

“This would allow the governor in a case where there was no budget, no funding mechanism, to be able to furlough employees or if there’s not enough money to make it through a year, to furlough employees a day a week, a day a month,” Tomblin said.

The bill would give the governor the authority to furlough workers by executive order and to pay certain bills, which is normally a function of the legislature. The bill reads:

“During a fiscal emergency, the Governor shall have plenary power and authority to issue an executive order directing the payment of certain obligations of the state, which are otherwise traditionally appropriated by the Legislature. The Governor shall also have the authority to direct payment of bonds or notes of the state or its agencies, boards and commissions.”

Tomblin said he’s not pushing the panic button but instead trying to be prepared.

“This is not to scare anybody but just in case it would happen at least the governor would have the authority to be able to pay debt service or for certain extremely important positions,” Tomblin said. “Obviously, we’d have to keep the prisons, hospitals those kinds of things open.”

The bill exempts constitutional officers from the furloughs.

The governor also answered a letter Wednesday that he received a day before from Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead concerning a request to put more items on the special session agenda to give lawmakers more flexibility to come up with a state budget solution. Tomblin did not dismiss the idea Wednesday but asked for more information.

Budget Letter to President and Speaker

“If we’re going to have cuts, show me what they are,” Tomblin said. “They’ve talked about making cuts to the budget since the first of the year but nothing specific.”

The following is the text of SB 1006, the furlough bill, introduced Wednesday:

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §5-1-30, relating to authorizing the Governor to issue executive orders to furlough state employees and pay certain obligations in the event of a fiscal emergency.
 Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §5-1-30, to read as follows:
 ARTICLE 1. THE GOVERNOR.

§5-1-30. Authority to issue executive orders enabling the furlough of state employees and to meet certain financial obligations of the state in the event of a fiscal emergency.

(a) Definitions.
“Furlough” means a mandatory, temporary, unpaid leave of absence required pursuant to an executive order issued by the Governor and subject to the conditions set forth in this section.
“Fiscal emergency” means circumstances where there is an overdraft or deficit in the state fund, general revenue, or where there is an anticipated deficit in the state fund, general revenue, or where a budget bill has not been enacted in any fiscal year, and revenues are inadequate for the state to make timely payments of its obligations, including, but not limited to, its debt service payment obligations on outstanding bonds.

(b) Furlough.
 Where a fiscal emergency occurs in any fiscal year, the Governor may by executive order institute state employee furloughs of limited or indefinite duration as an alternative to a reduction in force, subject to the following conditions:

(1) The furlough must be inclusive of all employees within a designated department, agency, division, office, or program, regardless of the source of funds, place of work, or classification.

(2) Where a furlough has been instituted, the Governor shall instruct the chief administrator of an affected department, agency, division, office, or program to create a schedule for furlough days or portions of furlough days. Under no circumstances may a department, agency, division, office, or program close completely.

(3) Constitutional officers are exempt from furlough.

(4) An executive order issued pursuant to this section shall address whether affected state employees are entitled to participate in the same state benefits as otherwise available to them during the period of the furlough and the manner in which they may participate.

(5) Placement of a state employee on furlough under this section shall not give rise to the right of a grievance or appeal to the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board.

(6) An executive order issued pursuant to this section shall address whether a state employee’s reduction in compensation may be allocated over the balance of the fiscal year rather than solely in the pay period(s) in which the furlough occurs.

(c) Payment of certain obligations in the absence of a budget bill.

During a fiscal emergency, the Governor shall have plenary power and authority to issue an executive order directing the payment of certain obligations of the state, which are otherwise traditionally appropriated by the Legislature. The Governor shall also have the authority to direct payment of bonds or notes of the state or its agencies, boards and commissions. The Treasurer and Auditor shall make the payments as directed by the Governor. The executive order(s) shall ensure that debts will continue to be paid during a fiscal emergency, regardless of whether a budget bill has been enacted.