MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – With state employee layoffs already announced for several state departments, Alabama senators weighed the idea of furloughing state employees Wednesday.
Under the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, state departments would have the option to order employees not to work and not be compensated but they could still receive benefits for 24 days.
"Our departments need this flexibility" David Perry said. Perry is the Director of the Alabama Department of Finance and testified in front of the Senate Ways and Means General Fund Committee on behalf of Governor Robert Bentley's office. Perry said since the state pays out so much in termination fees, furloughs is a much better option than widespread layoffs across state departments.
"We want what's best for the citizens of Alabama and to maintain as many state services as we can and this is the flexibility that could allow that."
Several state employees testified that they could not deal with another cut. Mac McArthur, the Executive Director of the Alabama State Employees Association said deciding between furloughs and layoffs was like "deciding between cancer and having a heart attack."
Teressa Momon who has worked in state government for 12 years told lawmakers she's already living paycheck to paycheck and that a furlough would be difficult to swallow.
"It would be devastating for me" Momon said. "I'm going to wonder how am I going to put food on my table."
Perry with the Finance Department said the state budgets do not have any dependence on departments having the ability to furlough.
"The savings from each (furloughs and layoffs) is the same" Perry said.
"It's just that one way provides more flexibility to minimize service cuts and layoffs, which can provide for better management of state government. The more flexibility our agencies have in dealing with looming cuts, the better."
The committee did not take any action on the bill. Senators will likely take up the bill again next week.