Most of Rhode Island’s State Employees Have Payless Day Off
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ For the second time in 11 days, most of Rhode Island’s 19,000 employees had a day off without pay Monday as Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun tried to rein in what he calls the nation’s worst state budget deficit.
Rhode Island, the state’s largest employer, plans to shut down eight more times before the end of the fiscal year on June 30 in an effort to stay afloat.
From state parks to the Statehouse, doors were locked and most workers were told to stay home. However, workers considered vital to public safety, such as state police, prison guards and some hospital personnel, were on the job.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fay, who had threatened to sue if the governor didn’t start providing marshals and other employees the courts need to stay open, worked out a compromise in a meeting with Sundlun.
Court administrator Matthew Smith said Fay wanted to brief other judges before making details public. Sundlun would not discuss the compromise.
Also open were colleges, where workers agreed to defer some of their pay, and offices paid for with federal funds, such as unemployment.
More than 300 people rallied at the Statehouse and more were being bused in to protest the furloughs, organizers said.
State workers ″want to do their part to help Rhode Island get through this crisis, but they think that locking them out of their jobs is worse than penny-wise and pound-foolish,″ said President J. Thomas Chellel of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has 8,000 Rhode Island members.
″I feel that anytime I could be laid off, and I’ve got 11 years state seniority,″ said Lydia Carvalho, a clerk in the administration department.
Sundlun, who also has laid off 600 workers, ordered the shutdowns to help make up a $222 million deficit in the state’s $1.5 billion budget. The next day off will be Friday. The furloughs amount to a 10 percent cut in annual pay.
Since the first shutdown March 8, the state Supreme Court rejected state employee unions’ arguments that Sundlun did not have the power to close state government and that the furloughs were an illegal lockout.
A steady stream of union officials trooped to Sundlun’s private law office to be briefed about budget problems Monday.
Sundlun and his aides did not provide specifics about the meetings. Spokesman David Preston said the subject of more layoffs or furloughs next year had not been broached, but added, ″There are some hard decisions to make.″
″Personally, I think that we’re headed for more layoffs and more shutdowns,″ Lynda DiMarco-Paci, president of the state chapter of the National Association of Nurses, said after her meeting.
The shutdown is one part of a budget-slashing package that included a 20 percent personal income tax increase, an 11 percent increase in the business profits tax and a 5 cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax.