Farmer: State should furlough double-dippers first

05/15/2010 11:19 AM

FRANKFORT — State Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington, told a House leader this week that if the General Assembly gives Gov. Steve Beshear the option of furloughing state workers, the first ones to be sent on unpaid leave should be “double-dippers.”

Beshear, when announcing Wednesday that he was calling lawmakers to Frankfort May 24 to pass the overdue state budget bill, told reporters he wanted lawmakers to include a provision that would allow the option of furloughing workers as a money saving measure.

Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington

Farmer has suggested that so-called “double-dippers,” state employees who had retired and begun drawing a state pension before returning to a government job to receive a salary too should be first in line for furloughs.

“Those with the least amount of time (should) come after those who are receiving multiple checks from the treasury,” Farmer wrote in an e-mail Thursday to Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown and the House Republican leader.

“Your double-dippers are our highest earners anyway,” Farmer told cn|2 Politics on Friday. He said lawmakers aren’t sure how many employees in Beshear’s administration currently draw a pension and state salary but he acknowledged that his suggestion will be unpopular among that group.

Farmer also told Hoover in his message that legislators must be given time to review the state budget bill before voting on it during the special session.

Reading a bill — especially a crucial $17.1 billion two-year spending plan — might seem like a minimum requirement of lawmakers. But as Farmer pointed out, they haven’t been given that opportunity in recent years.

“We NEED to have some legitimate time to sit down and look at a real bill,” Farmer wrote to Hoover. “For the last few budgets we have taken it on faith that the bill was good.”

Farmer said later he isn’t giving any ultimatums but was trying to urge House leaders ahead of time to let legislators do their jobs right.

“We should get the respect to be able to sit down and look through it,” he said. Having a bill crammed down legislators’ throats mere hours before being asked to vote on it is “a Washington, D.C., type of event” that state lawmakers should seek to avoid, he added.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday that legislative staff was in the process of analyzing each provision of the current budget proposal to compare to the House and Senate versions over which the lawmakers failed to agree before the 2010 regular General Assembly adjourned April 15. Once the analysis is done, lawmakers will be able to compare the differences between the three versions.

-Ryan Alessi


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