Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 | 11:36 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- A Senate bill being considered today would give local governments authority to force its employees, including teachers, firefighters, police, and city and county workers, to take unpaid days off if their contracts are adjusted.
The move could prove controversial during the third day of the special session, where legislators are working to close an $887 million deficit. Asked about the plan, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said, "This is about coming up with the best plan possible. Everyone is going to have to give."
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, noted in a Senate hearing that the bill wouldn't force local governments to institute furloughs, but would give them the option.
Legislative counsel Brenda Erdoes said: "What this bill does overall, this gives local government employers flexibility."
But local government union representatives said the move would only be effective if the contracts the unions negotiated with the governments are adjusted. Local governments have asked employees to come to the table to reduce wages, saying otherwise they will have to lay off workers. While some employee groups have come to the table, others, like firefighters and teachers union, have taken a stronger stand.
The day began with the Senate hearing a bill to keep state offices open only four days a week, for 10 hours a day. It would also slightly increase furloughs for state workers from 8 hours a month to 10 hours a month, increasing the effective pay cut from 4.6 percent to 5.7 percent.
Giving local governments the power to furlough its workers wouldn't address the state's shortfall, but it could give local governments more options in addressing their own growing shortfalls.
The Legislature has, over the years, granted extensive powers to local employee unions like teachers and firefighters in collective bargaining.
Studies have shown that local government employees, particularly firefighters and other employees of counties and cities, make some of the highest wages nationally and more than local government employees elsewhere.