CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In light of the recent partial shutdown of the federal government, West Virginia legislators should reconsider a proposal to let the governor furlough state employees, a state officials and former House of Delegates speaker said Wednesday.
"I think it's something the Legislature should look at again," Bob Kiss told the Council of Finance and Administration.
In 2009, the state Senate passed legislation (SB519) to authorize the governor to furlough state employees in the event of serious state revenue shortfalls. It passed the Senate 32-1, but the House of Delegates, under pressure from state employee groups, never took up the bill.
"We tried to run a bill in the Senate for furloughs, and we just got slammed to the mat," said Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, one of the bill's co-sponsors.
"We were looking to protect the state ... We weren't even considering a federal government shutdown," he said.
The Senate bill primarily envisioned giving the governor authority to require state employees to take unpaid furlough days within pay periods in the event of a state budget crunch.
Kiss said he understands that state employees would have angst about a furlough law, but said it would provide protections to employees in the event of a major funding deficit, or another extended federal government shutdown.
According to the state Budget Office, about 11 percent of state payroll -- roughly 4,600 full-time employees -- is paid through federal funding.
Had the 16-day federal shutdown gone on much longer, Kiss said the state would have been in the position where it could no longer pay those employees.
"The one thing we learned from this shutdown is the pain starts being inflicted much more quickly than we thought," he said.