Budget will have to wait until Tuesday

By FRED LUCAS State Journal Staff Writer Published:

The 2003 session of the General Assembly will enact a state budget, lawmakers of all stripes say, though it won't happen as soon as planned and may fail to address future concerns.

Those concerns could impact state employees, many of whom are taking a hit from budget proposals in the midst of a $400 million budget shortfall, but won't lose their jobs as some had feared. Many lower-income employees will even get a higher raise than anticipated before the session began.

But on Thursday, House and Senate leaders said the goal of passing a budget by Monday wasn't reachable because of disputes over such issues as funding a runoff primary in the governor's race. So the House and Senate won't convene today, and it won't count against the Constitution's limit of 30 legislative meeting days for an off-year session.

Despite other disagreements, the House and Senate budget bills are in step on personnel matters. The two key issues are an option for mandatory unpaid time off for workers and an across-the-board $1,080 pay raise, instead of the expected 2.7 percent pay hike.

Employees used to getting a 5 percent pay raise had to take a 2.7 percent raise last year, and this year they won't even receive that. But the $1,080 across-the-board increment would be a nice bonus for those employees earning less than $40,000 per year. The same dollar amount raise would go to all workers, whether it's a cabinet secretary, a clerical worker or a janitor for the state.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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