TUESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Furlough days have been mandated for Colorado state workers who make above $50,000.
DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado state administrators are expected to announce unpaid furlough days for nearly 30,000 state employees, with an announcement likely coming this week from Gov. Jared Polis, according to internal state emails and other documents obtained in a CBS4 Investigation.
“Over the next year, most employees will be furloughed up to five days,” according to an unreleased state document obtained by CBS4 that was distributed last week to high ranking state administrators.
The number of furlough days would be tiered and would depend on an employee’s salary, but the minimum number of furlough days for state workers making over $50,000 would be two furlough days. More highly compensated workers would take between three to five days off without pay over the next fiscal year.
The state’s Department of Personnel and Administration has been working on the furlough proposal for weeks, noting “The slowing economy and pandemic has resulted in increased unemployment and declining consumer spending, which, in turn, have adversely impacted State revenues,” according to “talking points” prepared for department leaders.
“In light of falling revenues and in order to keep the State’s budget in balance, the administration is undertaking aggressive budget cutting measures in the current fiscal year, and those budget cutting measures include reducing the State’s personal services expenditures.”
Doug Platt, Communications Manager for the Department of Personnel and Administration, told CBS4 Monday night he was unaware of a furlough strategy.
“I haven’t seen any kind of plan,” Platt said. He said he would attempt to gather more information in response to a CBS4 request.
The furlough plans were sent last week by the Department of Personnel and Administration to cabinet members, executive directors of state departments, deputy directors and human resource directors according to state emails obtained by CBS4.
Queried by CBS4 about the pending furloughs, Conor Cahill, Press Secretary for Gov. Polis, would not confirm the move. In a Sept. 10 email to CBS4, Cahill wrote, “The State is responsibly managing agency budgets and continues to evaluate the fiscal situation and work with the Joint Budget Committee members during this challenging time.”
However confidential state documents obtained by CBS4 show the first two unpaid furlough days would be scheduled for Nov. 27, 2020, the day after Thanksgiving, and Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, the day after President’s Day.
The draft plan shows that full-time state workers making a base salary less than $50,000 would not be required to take furlough days. Employees earning between $50,000 and $70,000 would have to take two days, employees making from $70,000 to $90,000 would take three days off, from $90,000 to $140,000 would mean four days off and above that salary level would translate into five days off.
State administrators have calculated the furlough days will cost workers between about 1% and 2% of their annual salary.
A number of state workers will be exempted from the furlough days according to internal state communications, including those in COVID-19 response roles, public safety and essential services.
But on those two days, after Thanksgiving and after President’s Day, most non-essential state government offices will be closed according to the plan.
Internal state documents show administrators believe Polis has the authority to issue an Executive Order for the mandatory furloughs due to the revenue shortfall.
One document obtained by CBS4 notes that the departments of Education, Law, State and Treasury are exempted from the furloughs.
In what may be a significant understatement, state administrators write that furloughing state workers “is far from an ideal situation.”