State employees will pay for Missouri holiday following legislative inaction

Monday, May 3, 2010 | 8:49 p.m. CDT; updated 8:26 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Some state employees will pay the price for Truman's Day on Friday after the state legislature failed to save the state millions of dollars by eliminating the holiday, Missouri's budget director announced Monday.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the state would offset the cost of the holiday by lowering the mileage reimbursement rate for travel by state employees.

The Office of Administration estimates that each holiday costs the state $1.5 million in overtime expenses from state jobs that must be filled during holidays, such as staffing prisons and health care facilities. Employees required to work during a holiday are paid an overtime rate.

Luebbering said revenue estimates had been calculated based on the assumption that a bill to eliminate two state holidays, Lincoln's Birthday and Truman's Day, would pass prior to this week.

"It seemed like a reasonable assumption," Luebbering said.

When that assumption proved false, however, the state was forced to compensate for the shortfall.

That meant announcing a 5-cent-per-mile reduction in reimbursement for state travel expenses, which was previously 42 cents per mile. The cut will remain in effect through at least the next fiscal year, Luebbering said, until the state has regained the sum of the revenue lost on Truman's Day.

The mileage reimbursement cuts could be the first of many additional cuts in the coming year if a bill does not pass by the end of the legislative session on May 14, Luebbering said.

"It's a zero-sum game," Luebbering said. "If we don't get the savings for the holidays next year, ... we'll have to make other cuts to offset those lost savings."

The Senate has passed two pieces of legislation to eliminate the holidays, but both bills have stalled in the House.

House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said he had delayed a vote to ensure that the fiscal effects of the legislation were properly evaluated.

"If this issue is that important, maybe we should take a step back and make sure that we don't do something that we regret," Tilley said. "If this has merit, we can do it after Truman's Day."

Tilley said he would likely bring one of the bills to the floor again early next week.

The legislation has also met opposition from a group of pro-labor Democrats who say the bill will cut work days with valuable overtime pay.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he worried that the bill would target workers with the lowest salaries while leaving the state's highest-paid workers unscathed.

"It's very disappointing that ... we would try to balance the budget on the backs of some of the hardest-working, most low-paid state employees," Webber said.

Webber said he did not worry about defying the governor, also a Democrat, in planning to vote against the legislation.

"Harry Truman himself could support this bill, and I would still disagree with it," Webber said.

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Scot Stephenson May 4, 2010 | 4:35 a.m.

My office is the interstate, the driving surface to be exact. I temporary repair bad spots. It a very stressful job as the traffic never stops. These holidays are very much looked at as a break from that stress. Thanks to each of you that kept us hard working low paid employees that keep Missouri traffic moving along.

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