Some Democrats did not take furlough days
Associated Press | Associated Press
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ATLANTA --- Records show the Senate's highest-ranking Democrat, along with several of his colleagues and Democratic House members, did not take the first round of furlough days accepted by most of their colleagues.

Many in the General Assembly voted to give state employees unpaid days off to shore up Georgia's sagging finances. When asked why they did not participate in the voluntary five furlough days between August and December, those lawmakers dismissed the issue as an honest error.

"I'm the victim of some kind of procedural thing," said state Sen. Ed Harbison, who added that he assumed he was taking part in the furloughs, which he supports.

"There's no way in the world you can ask people to take furlough days and not do so yourself," he said.

The state's fiscal office confirmed that Harbison and Sens. Gloria Butler, Lester Jackson, Valencia Seay and Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, along with Reps. David Lucas and Earnest "Coach" Williams did not return the forms due Aug. 21 indicating whether they would participate in the furloughs.

GOP lawmakers touted their full participation in the furloughs.

"I'm proud to serve with my fellow Republicans that continue to put the state's needs before their own and who serve Georgians with core conservative values of less spending and less government," said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

Lawmakers are being asked to take six more days off before the fiscal year ends in June. In announcing the measure Tuesday, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston said the days were added to further trim the state's cash-strapped budget.

The General Assembly has to agree to the furlough days because their salaries are controlled by state law. If they do, lawmakers would take 11 furlough days before the fiscal year ends. Other state agencies have taken as many as 12 days to meet the budget shortfall.

Legislators earn $17,341 a year and also bring in $173 in per diems for days they work on state business.

Butler said Tuesday that there "might have been some miscommunication" regarding last year's furlough days, but that she would participate in the upcoming unpaid leave.

Seay said her missed furlough days were an "oversight" that took place after the legislative session. She said the forms for the upcoming furlough days have already been signed and submitted.

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