D.C. poised to pay workers for 4 furlough days

By |
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Two weeks after unanimously rejecting a $20 million plan to repay District workers for furlough days they were forced to take last year, the D.C. Council is expected to approve a $22 million version of the proposal on Tuesday.

The centerpiece of a $64 million supplemental budget from Mayor Vincent Gray, the furlough payment plan would convert four unpaid holidays in 2011 to paid days for tens of thousands of people who continue to work for the District government. The days had been scheduled as paid days until city leaders ordered the furloughs in a bid to close a $188 million budget shortfall.

"With the financial information we had at the time, last year's decision to furlough employees appeared to be necessary," Gray wrote in a letter to Council Chairman Kwame Brown. "The decision to conduct furloughs proved unnecessary. Accordingly, I believe restoring these furlough days from additional fiscal year 2012 revenue is the right thing to do." Although Gray aides have touted the furlough payment plan to labor unions, which boosted the mayor during his 2010 campaign, Brown on Monday denied the payments were to enhance the standing of city leaders among rank-and-file members of a powerful political lobby.

Paid to unpaid to paid?
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray wants to pay most city employees for four furlough days they were forced to take in 2011. The furlough days were already city holidays and became unpaid days:
> Presidents Day, Emancipation Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day

"Everyone is getting their money back," said Brown, who joined Gray in saying he wouldn't accept payment for the furlough days he had to take. Joslyn Williams, the president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, which represents thousands of city workers, cheered the new proposal.

"Four days were taken away from these workers, and the justification was that the city did not have the money to meet its obligations, and city employees had to bear the burden," Williams said. "Now, we find out that those so-called harsh economic realities that we were told existed were a figment of somebody's imagination. ... To fail to give these people the money is to legitimize government-sanctioned robbery."The vote will come two weeks after legislators stripped $62 million from Gray's original supplemental budget measure, approving a $15 million package to shore up the finances of charter schools and the unemployment compensation program. At the time, Brown said the council needed more time to review Gray's proposal.

The new version lawmakers will consider is largely similar to the one they voted down, aides acknowledged, except for the $2 million increase to the furlough repayment program and changes to the city's tax on out-of-state municipal bonds.

But if the new supplemental budget proposal is a sign of a political cease-fire between Gray and Brown, who clashed repeatedly about the fate of the $80 million windfall, the product hasn't been universally embraced. At least three councilmen -- Michael Brown, David Catania and Jim Graham -- have signaled concerns about paying District employees for all four furlough days.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner