Extra state holidays

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

State employees received the following paid holidays in 2003:

New Year's Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Lincoln's Birthday

Washington's Birthday

Truman's Birthday

Memorial Day

Independence Day

Labor Day

Columbus Day

Veterans Day

Thanksgiving Day (plus Friday after Thanksgiving)

Christmas Day (plus Friday after Christmas)

In October, Gov. Bob Holden issued an executive order granting Missouri's state employees paid days off on the Fridays after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last week it was reported that the paid holidays were costing Missouri taxpayers more than $4 million for each of those days.

It's possible to understand how Holden reached his generous decision. From time to time, other governors in the past have done the same thing as a holiday gesture.

Also consider the fact that Missouri's 56,000 workers haven't had a raise in three years. Holden said he felt strongly that he should give the extra two paid holidays as a way to acknowledge that state workers were having to do more with less.

And, the governor's staff argued, many of those employees would have used vacation time to take off those days anyway. In that case, those state workers will get two paid holidays plus two extra days of vacation.

The grim reality is that state employees are getting two extra paid holidays this year while Missouri is facing a tough economic situation. Economists are predicting a state budget shortfall of $300 million to $1 billion next year, leaving the legislature with many hard budget decisions to make.

Teachers are losing their jobs because earlier this year Holden cut funding for education. And thousands of Missourians are unemployed this year because of the state's sour economy.

This isn't the time to spend more money, especially when school districts are having funds withheld and others are looking for jobs.

Giving state employees two additional holidays is another example of how this governor seeks to curry favor with unions, just as he did with his 2001 executive order authorizing collective bargaining for some state employees.

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