Something Governor Nixon said during his budget-cutting speech in Springfield this week struck us as odd:
“We’re going to eliminate three extra state holidays, including Truman’s birthday. Every holiday costs us about $1.2 million; we’re talking about real savings in tough times.”
So the state is going to save $3.6 million dollars by eliminating the state holiday for Harry Trumnan’s birthday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and one of the two Presidents Days on the state holiday calendar. Our first thought was, “Wait a minute. These are paid holidays. How does making somebody actually show up in the office on a day for which they’re paid anyway save millions of dollars?” How much, we wondered, would the state save if it eliminated ten state symbols while it was cutting back on things?
Well, there actually is a savings by eliminating three state holidays. And the question about reducing the number of state symbols was rhetorically absurd and we knew it.
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering has explained the holiday thing to us. Although most state workers don’t have to go ito their offices on holidays, hundreds of state workers DO work on holidays — prison guards, mental hospital workers, Highway Patrol and Water Patrol officers, Transportation Department workers when the weather is ghastly, some state parks employees, and a lot of others. They are paid extra when they work on holidays, time and a half or something like that. By eliminating three holidays, the state saves by not having to pay those workers their holiday premium rates. It works out to $3.6 million.
Does this mean that people who take those days off anyway won’t get paid? The decision is probably covered in state employe policies, but most likely those who don’t show up at the office on those days will have to burn a day of vacation or take a day of unpaid leave.