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ISSUE: Furloughs for federal workers
OUR VIEW: Long-term problems need long-term solutions
Many private sector firms have swallowed furloughs to cut expenses. One of the benefits, some budget minders say, is spreading the burden across all employees and avoiding layoffs.
The state followed suit in 2010, saving $24 million by furloughing employees for six days. Last year, Kentucky court workers were furloughed three days, saving $1.2 million.
And since sequestration kicked in this month, multiple federal agencies are looking to slash their costs with furloughs. Just at Fort Knox, about 7,000 Department of Defense employees are facing up to 22 furlough days.
But time after time, furloughs prove ineffective. Many public sector companies that furlough one year have found themselves in no better shape the next year. The savings are not sustainable and furloughs only postponed more effective decisions.
Additionally, some human resource experts argue furloughs hurt a company’s long-term prospects because they risk losing top performers. Top performers, those who can advance even in a down economy, feel less secure in their jobs and end up picking up a lot of slack during furloughs. They go into job search mode. How opportune they have some time off during the work week to schedule job interviews.
But from a purely fiscal perspective, consider our state government. Furloughs did nothing for the year-to-year sustainability of programs and services funded by the state.
Consider the judicial system. It’s short millions of dollars and is living hand to mouth.
Furloughs are a short-term solution for a short-term problem. The fact that incomes have stalled or declined since 2008 for many workers is not a short-term problem and neither is the federal deficit.
Unpaid days off for federal employees this year won’t make any difference next year.
At Fort Knox, employees who are willing to take the pay cut and work harder to maintain support of soldiers and their families are not rare. Their commitment and esprit de corps is inspiring. But those things shouldn’t be leveraged by federal budget offices.
Then again, no one actually proposed implementing the furloughs unleashed by sequestration. The plan was purposefully bizarre with purposefully grave consequences so that anyone in their right mind would work night and day to come up with a better plan.
It seems the American worker and American taxpayer lost that game of chicken. Most probably didn’t even know they were playing.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.