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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2011

Michigan seeks more givebacks


LANSING -- Gov. Rick Snyder's administration said yesterday it plans to save the state money by requiring unionized state workers to take at least four unpaid furlough days and by introducing legislation requiring them to contribute to their defined benefit retirement plans if they want to keep them.

It also plans to close a prison and look into privatizing another, cut 367 vacant jobs, and refinance debts issued by the State Building Authority.

The governor wants state workers to agree to $145 million in concessions in the budget year that starts Saturday. But a coalition of state employee unions argues that the state can save as much as $170 million, without requiring more sacrifices from state workers, by requiring state vendors to pay more and by cutting the number of managers in state government.

Both sides are negotiating contracts that take effect next year.

The economic portions of the unions' contracts with the state don't expire until September, 2012, but Mr. Snyder wants the concessions now. When they weren't forthcoming, his administration took action on its own.

"We needed to act to ensure a continued balanced budget," state budget chief John Nixon said in a statement. "We were also able to fulfill Governor Snyder's priority of avoiding layoffs at this time."

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