JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's budget director announced Monday that some state employees will literally pay the price for Truman's Day on Friday, after the state legislature failed to save the state millions of dollars by eliminating the holiday.
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the state would offset the cost of the holiday by lowering the mileage reimbursement rate for travel by state employees.
The Office of Administration estimates that each holiday costs the state $1.5 million in overtime expenses from state jobs that must be filled during holidays, such as staffing prisons and health-care facilities. Employees required to work during a holiday are paid an overtime rate.
Luebbering said the state's revenue estimates had been calculated based on the assumption that a bill to eliminate two state holidays, Lincoln's Birthday and Truman's Day, would pass prior to this week.
"It seemed like a reasonable assumption," Luebbering said.
When that assumption proved false, however, the state was forced to compensate for the shortfall.
That meant announcing on Monday a five-cent-per-mile reduction in reimbursement for state travel expenses. The cut will remain in effect through at least the next fiscal year, Luebbering said, until the state has regained the sum of the revenue lost on Truman's Day.
The mileage reimbursement cuts could be the first of many additional cuts in the coming year if a bill does not pass by the end of the legislative session on May 14, Luebbering said.
"It's a zero-sum game," Luebbering said. "If we don't get the savings for the holidays next year ... we'll have to make other cuts to offset those lost savings."
The Senate has passed two pieces of legislation to eliminate the holidays, but both bills have stalled in the House, where Democratic opposition has threatened the two-thirds vote that would have been needed to put the measure into effect prior to this Friday's holiday.
House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said he had delayed a vote to ensure that the fiscal effects of the legislation were properly evaluated prior to action by the House.
"If this issue is that important, maybe we should take a step back and make sure that we don't do something that we regret," Tilley said. "If this has merit, we can do it after Truman's Day."
Tilley said he would likely bring one of the bills to the floor again early next week.
The legislation has also been met with opposition from a group of pro-labor Democrats who say the bill will cut work days made all the more valuable by the stagnating economy.
One detractor, Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he worried that the bill would target workers with the lowest salaries while leaving the state's highest-paid workers unscathed.
"It's a bad bill for workers and goes after the most vulnerable workers," Webber said. "It's very disappointing that ... we would try to balance the budget on the backs of some of the hardest-working, most low-paid state employees."
Webber said he did not worry about defying the governor, also a Democrat, in planning to vote against the legislation.
"Harry Truman himself could support this bill, and I would still disagree with it," Webber said.