By ABBY BROWNBACK
ANNAPOLIS (December 7, 2010)State employees can sign up for a $15,000 buyout—the latest move to cut Maryland's budget—under a program announced Tuesday by Gov. Martin O'Malley. The buyouts are the first step to cutting 500 jobs before the administration might turn to layoffs.
The legislature ordered the governor to cut 500 jobs by the end of FY 2011, and the administration expects at least that many to participate in the Voluntary Separation Program, said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley.
"If it doesn't (reach 500), we have a budget we have to introduce in January, but we have the entire legislative session to debate that budget," Abbruzzese said.
The governor does not want to continue layoffs or furloughs, but if fewer than 500 people are approved for buyouts, "that might mean some layoffs," Abbruzzese said.
Eligible state employees can apply for the buyout—$15,000 plus $200 per year of service and three months of medical benefits—until Jan. 4, more than two weeks before the governor's budget is due to the legislature. This, Abbruzzese said, allows the administration time to anticipate the cost savings based on who applies for the buyout.
The FY 2011 state budget already accounts for paying through June the salaries of employees who will take the buyout. Those savings will balance the buyout payments, making the first year of the program cost-neutral, Abbruzzese said. A greater effect on the budget will be seen in FY 2012.
By Tuesday afternoon, two employees had filed applications, Abbruzzese said.
The last day of work for employees whose applications are approved by the Cabinet secretary overseeing their department and the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management is Jan. 31.
There are about 80,000 state employees, but the legislative and judicial branches of state government, as well as the University System of Maryland, are excluded from the program.
Employees who take the buyout cannot work for the state or as a contractor for the state for 18 months.