Thursday, June 10, 2004

State workers may face layoffs

Fletcher, Stumbo argue on spending

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration says the jobs of 2,904 state employees may be riding on Fletcher's ability to use an "executive spending plan" to suspend Kentucky laws.

Those laws include a statute that caps the state payroll at 33,000 workers. The actual number of employees was 2,904 higher as of Wednesday, according to Fletcher's staff.

The General Assembly routinely suspends the statutory cap through the budget law but did not pass a budget before adjourning April 13. The current budget expires June 30.

Fletcher is drawing up a spending plan to use beginning July 1. Attorney General Greg Stumbo is suing to prevent Fletcher from using the spending plan to suspend laws.

When the suit was filed, Fletcher said as many as 5,000 state employees might have to be laid off - well above the figure released Wednesday.

Fletcher's budget director, Brad Cowgill, said the consequences of the court case still could be "fairly Draconian" - a reference to forced layoffs.

Stumbo contended executive branch employment was over the cap by 351 people, a number that could be accommodated through normal attrition without having to suspend the law.

The governor's office said Stumbo's total was only for employees covered by the state's main personnel system. Cowgill's deputy, Bill Hintze, said Stumbo's figure did not cover employees of Kentucky State Police, local prosecutor and property-assessor offices, employees of the various state retirement systems and the state's constitutional officers - Stumbo among them - a total of 2,553 people.

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites said Stumbo's figures came from Fletcher's own Department of Personnel through the Open Records Act. "Sounds like they're trying to get that number up as high as they can ... purely for the scare factor," Whites said.

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