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Cuts would mean four-day closure of state offices

Scott Bauer
AP Writer

Madison — Don’t count on getting a new driver’s license the day after Thanksgiving: The Department of Motor Vehicles, along with other state offices, will likely close that day under the governor’s plan to furlough state workers.

Gov. Jim Doyle has ordered 16 unpaid furlough days over the next two years as a way to help close a $6.6 billion state budget shortfall. The idea of shutting down state government offices to help achieve that came Tuesday as part of a list of options for state agencies to meet the order.

State offices already are closed for seven holidays each year.

The other new days where most of state government will be closed are President’s Day, the Friday before Memorial Day and Columbus Day, which is the second Monday in October. The furlough days would start with Columbus Day this year and end with the Friday before Memorial Day in 2011.

The furloughs are expected to save about $121 million over the next two years, according to Office of State Employment Relations director Jennifer Donnelly. Up to 1,500 state workers would have to be laid off to generate the same savings as the furloughs, Donnelly said. Under the state budget pending before the Legislature, about 1,400 state workers could be laid off under proposed spending cuts.

It’s not mandatory that state agencies close those days, but the state is asking that they do shut down unless there’s a compelling business reason to stay open.

Other options for meeting the furlough order including accepting a 3.06 percent pay cut instead of taking unpaid days off or reducing work hours each week the equivalent of 16 days.

The goal is to give agencies as much flexibility as possible to minimize disruptions in service, Donnelly said.

Even though most of state government likely will shut down those four days, students at the University of Wisconsin shouldn’t start planning any three-day weekends. Because all of those days except the day after Thanksgiving conflict with class schedules, the university will not be complying, according to information attributed to UW President Kevin Reilly in an e-mail to faculty and staff.

The university hopes to make its furlough plan public June 30, Reilly said.

State prisons, hospitals, power plants and other offices that can’t close down also will have to find ways to implement the furloughs that will keep overtime costs down, Donnelly said.

The furloughs apply to all 69,000 state employees, no matter where they work or if their salary comes from the federal government or other sources, she said.

Donnelly said the state was talking with state employee unions about opening collective bargaining agreements to implement the pay cuts and to pursue other options. A spokeswoman for the 10,000-member union AFT-Wisconsin had no immediate comment. Marty Beil, executive director of the 20,000-member Wisconsin State Employees Union, did not immediately return a message.

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