Gov. Martin O’Malley last week issued a furlough and salary reduction plan for all state employees to help close Maryland’s more than $2 billion budget gap. About 67,000 workers will take unpaid leave to save money, he said.

O’Malley said the plan will save the triple-A rated state more than $34 million in fiscal 2009.

Employees will be required to forego the equivalent of at least two days of pay, and employees making more than $40,000 will also be required to take 16 or 24 furlough hours on or after Jan. 14 and before June 30, he said.

Employees earning salaries of less than $40,000 will not be required to take furlough hours, although they will be included in the two days of pay equivalent salary reduction.

“In the midst of this deepening national recession, there are some difficult decisions before us that we wish we did not have to make,” O’Malley said in a press release. “After collaborating with labor leaders over the last few weeks, this morning I have signed an executive order establishing a furlough and salary reduction plan for all state employees due to this deepening national recession that has us all tightening our belts at work and at home.”

O’Malley has already reduced spending by $2.2 billion, eliminated more than 1,500 jobs, and kept budget growth at less than 4% annually over the past 22 months.

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