Tuesday, June 18, 2002

State jobs safe, Ky. official says

No layoffs are planned, but ...

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Cabinet Secretary Crit Luallen tried to reassure employee groups Monday that Gov. Paul Patton's spending plan for the coming fiscal year includes no layoffs.

        But if the governor's plan is challenged in court, Mr. Luallen said, state employee rolls could have to be slashed.

        “We can guarantee that the governor's spending plan won't include any layoffs,” Mr. Luallen told the Employee Advisory Council, the organization of union leaders who advise the governor on employee issues.

        With the General Assembly unable to agree on a budget for the coming fiscal year, the Patton administration is getting ready to put in place its own spending plan.

        Enacted budgets routinely suspend or alter some statutes to accommodate spending and policy initiatives. Without that legislative imprimatur, those statutes are still on the books and could be enforced.

        For example, state law requires a 5 percent annual pay raise for state employees. Mr. Patton's spending plan will provide a 2.7 percent raise, the same figure included in budgets passed separately in the House and Senate.

        Some state employee groups could challenge the spending plan and seek the full 5 percent raise.

        Another state law places a cap of about 33,000 on total state employment, which now numbers about 37,000.

        “If we have to follow the letter of the law on both those issues, it could mean significant layoffs,” Mr. Luallen told the council.

        Administration officials expect court challenges to the spending plan, and Mr. Luallen said they hope a judge will take a broad view of the constitutional directive that a governor must continue to provide essential services.

        “We can't lay off 4,000 employees and do that,” Mr. Luallen said.

        David Burtch, a United Auto Workers representative on the council, said economic issues are the primary concern for state workers and indicated there will be at least some push to get 5 percent raises.


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