O'Malley offers buyouts to Md. state employees

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 9:00 PM

With Maryland facing a looming budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) offered a buyout plan Tuesday to state employees willing to resign by the end of next month.

State workers who agree to participate in the "voluntary separation program" will receive a lump-sum payment of $15,000, another $200 for each year of service and three months of health benefits.

O'Malley, who was reelected last month, said the program is intended to "cut costs in a fiscally responsible way" and help avoid layoffs in his budget proposal due to the General Assembly in mid-January.

"Under this program, I hope to continue to decrease the size of our workforce by allowing employees to voluntarily elect to leave state government," O'Malley said in a letter e-mailed to state employees.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese declined to say how much the program might save, saying the administration would have to see how widely utilized it is.

Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME Maryland, the state's largest employees union, said his group had encouraged the administration to adopt such a program for years and had worked to negotiate terms as generous as possible.

"We're happy to see it's finally been taken up," Moran said. "At the end of the day, if it will alleviate potential layoffs, it's a good thing."

Moran said the scope of the state's buyout offer was similar to those of other states that have tried such things.

"We don't think it will entice a huge number of people," he said. "It's there to entice people who've been considering retiring or are on the cusp of retirement or have other job possibilities."

As Maryland has grappled with budget shortfalls in previous years, state employees have been subject to furloughs and temporary salary reductions. About 4,200 state positions have also been eliminated, according to O'Malley's office.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company