Gov. Steve Beshear says furloughs off the table in 2012 with news of state revenues remaining high

06/10/2011 02:30 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear has taken furloughs off the table for 2012, at least for the time being, in response to news that state revenue is up for the eleventh straight month.

Beshear scheduled six furlough days for state employees to take during the fiscal year 2011 budget. Their last furlough day for 2011 was two weeks ago. Beshear left the door open for more furloughs to balance a shortfall in the 2012 budget.

But with general fund and road receipts up for the eleventh month in a row in May, up 6.7 percent overall for the year, Beshear decided to shut the door on furloughs, as long as the state revenue remains up or on target.

“The May revenue report gives us additional hope that the revenue outlook for next fiscal year may improve beyond budgeted levels as well,” Beshear said in a statement. “Therefore, at this time no furlough days for state employees will be scheduled for Fiscal Year 2012. We will continue to evaluate whether any furloughs will be necessary to balance the $169 million budgeted gap in the FY 12 budget when we have updated revenue projections; however, if things continue as they are going now, they will be unnecessary.”

General Fund receipts rose 17.8 percent in May, while Road Fund receipts were up 10.5 percent.

Beshear originally asked for the ability to have furloughs during the 2010 Special Session to help balance the budget, but lawmakers said they didn’t want Beshear to use furloughs as a first resort to help balancing the budget.

Yet Beshear implemented the furlough days anyway, saying without them, massive layoffs would have occurred in state government. Beshear also participated in the furloughs and has recently touted the furlough days as a fiscally responsible move in campaign TV ads.

Lawmakers in the state House passed a non-binding bill during the 2011 session that encouraged Beshear to stop the furloughs. And in a statement, fellow Democrat, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, said he was glad Beshear finally listened to the General Assembly.

“As for the good news that furloughs appear to be over, I think I speaker for members of both sides of the House in saying that we applaud the governor for recognizing the unfairness of this policy, particularly as it relates to the hardship it caused lower-paid state employees,” Stumbo said in a statement. “We commend him for finally following the recommendations of the General Assembly to forgo this practice.”

The State Senate expressed its displeasure with the furloughs as well. Republican state Senate President David Williams often criticized Beshear for furloughing state workers instead of cutting back his own governor’s staff and political appointees.

Williams is running against Beshear in the 2011 gubernatorial race, along with Independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith.

UPDATE In a statement, Williams once again hit Beshear for playing politics with furloughs.

“State workers know the furloughs were nothing more than a politically motivated budget gimmick to give Steve Beshear a talking point in a television ad,” Williams said in a statement. “Steve Beshear has failed to address the serious structural issues plaguing our state budget and he has done nothing to relieve Kentucky’s unemployment crisis. Ultimately, voters will have to decide if Beshear is someone they can trust after four years of budget and job creation failures.”

UPDATE 2 On Monday, the third gubernatorial slate of Independents Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley hit Beshear for the furlough statement, accusing Beshear of trying to gain political points with the announcement.

And Galbraith’s campaign manager Ralph Long said state employees should be reminded of the old saying “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.”

-Reporting by Kenny Colston

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