Plans in works to stop furloughs from closing state parks

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

Alternative plans for the state-mandated five-day employee furloughs are being considered to keep area state parks from closing.

In November, Gov. Bill Richardson ordered all executive agencies to submit furlough plans by Nov. 30, to help balance the state budget.

“This furlough includes all agencies under the governor including state parks and New Mexico Department of Transportation,” said Gilbert Gallegos, deputy chief of staff.

The idea is to have the vast majority of agencies shut down to cut cost on resources and energy, said Gallegos.

Gallegos said the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources division contacted the governor with concerns about the closure of the parks.

One of the proposed dates for the furlough is May 28, which is the start of Memorial Day weekend.

“In a broader perspective the governor is trying to keep state parks from closing,” Gallegos said. “Alternative furlough plans have been submitted and are being reviewed. The governor does not want to shut the parks at the start of a holiday weekend.”

The possibility of state park closures and employee furloughs was first considered by EMNR Cabinet Secretary Joanna Prukop to help deal with an an anticipated 7.6 percent budget cut, according to an October press release.

The EMNR budget had been cut by 5 percent ($1.3 million) earlier in the year, said Jodi Porter, Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Public Information Officer.

The plans for the suggested furlough and park closures changed when the percentage of budget cut was reduced. However this was before the governor ‘s furlough plan was announced.

“Nothing has been decided at this time,” Porter said. Our departments like every other executive branch will follow the governor’s directive on furlough days.”

Gallegos said the furlough plan is still in the draft phase and has to be approved by the State Personnel Board. He said there had been some concern raised about the first three dates being so close together effecting three pay periods in a row.

“The state personnel director will submit the furlough plan, alternative plans and exemptions to the board,” Gallegos said. “New Mexico State Police officers and dispatchers are an example of those exempt from the five-day furloughs. Once it is approved it will be final.”