Refusal of lawmakers to take furlough days insults state employees who had no choice

One of the arguments offered by lawmakers asking state employees — including teachers — to accept unpaid furlough days is that everyone is sharing the pain.

Well, that argument just went down in flames with the refusal of two House members to accept the pay cut on the “principle” that they signed on for a certain salary and they want their full pay

In an AJC exclusive, the paper reports that seven legislators did not the prescribed furlough days last year, most out of so-called “confusion,” but two others out of “principle.” (As to that confusion defense, more than 200 other lawmakers weren’t confused about the process. Why were these few so foggy on the details?)

Here is what the story says:

Four of the five senators who skipped the furloughs in 2009 said they were confused by the process governing the way lawmakers take such days, and the two House members said they had no intention of taking them. All seven are Democrats.

Rep. David Lucas of Macon and Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams of Avondale Estates said they oppose the furloughs on principle. Both said the leadership ordered the days without consulting members, who ran for the office with the expectation they would be paid a certain salary.

“If the general public wants to get rid of David Lucas for that, then fine,” said Lucas.

Somebody ought to take Lucas up on that offer. To refuse a pay cut that rank and file state workers had to take is not only arrogant, it is insulting. Teachers and other state workers signed up their jobs also expecting a certain salary. They are not getting it.

Because we’re in a dire recession if Lucas and Williams haven’t noticed.

The story also says:

Legislators are paid $17,342 a year; 11 unpaid days would cost the average rank-and-file member about $725 each.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston said in a joint statement that updated estimates that state revenues will be down $1.2 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30 led to their call Tuesday for more voluntary furlough days for lawmakers.

“As elected leaders, we must lead by example,” the joint statement said. “We are not immune to the revenue shortfalls that are affecting our state and our families.”

Robyn Underwood, legislative fiscal officer, said the 11 furlough days will save the state about $170,000.

Four of the senators — Valencia Seay of Riverdale, Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon, Lester Jackson of Savannah and Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain —said they intended to take the furlough days.

They said that in an “oversight” they had not filed the proper paperwork to have the money deducted from their checks.

“Their perception was that it was automatic,” said Benjamin F. George, Brown’s chief of staff. “It was not that they objected to it. This is nothing that any of them would have wanted to happen.”

The fifth senator, Ed Harbison of Columbus, said he had asked to take the furlough days and didn’t know until Tuesday that it hadn’t happened. He said he has asked that money be taken from his paychecks two days a month until he’s caught up.

Underwood confirmed that Harbison made that request, and she said she plans to offer to do the same for other legislators who did not — but want to — take all 11 furlough days.

Senators had to sign a form to take part in the furlough, while House members had to submit a letter to opt out, Underwood said.

This is when I wonder why these folks run for office and they keep getting re-elected.

75 comments Add your comment


January 27th, 2010
8:04 am

“Rep. David Lucas of Macon and Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams of Avondale Estates said they oppose the furloughs on principle. Both said the leadership ordered the days without consulting members, who ran for the office with the expectation they would be paid a certain salary.”

Perhaps someone needs to remind Rep. Lucas and Rep. Williams that every single teacher in the state of GA signed a contract with the expectation that they would be paid the amount in the contract, and that certainly hasn’t come true. Reading this article this morning quite literally made me sick to my stomach. After all of the bashing that Sonny has taken for his budget, it’s obvious that stupidity crosses party lines. I wish I lived in either of these reps districts, because I would immediately begin to seek the election of their opponents.

Write Your Board Members

January 27th, 2010
8:22 am

Of course, two of the 7 are part of the DeKalb delegation, including Rep Williams. Just another sign of the overall dysfunction of DeKalb.


January 27th, 2010
8:45 am

The fact that the furlough days for the legislators are voluntary is laugable; the fact that two of them refused ‘on principal’ is disgusting. I hope all of the voters in those districts have ‘principles’ as well and vote these folks out. True that the 170k that will be saved is only a drop in the bucket, but at this point, every little bit helps, AND it’s ‘the principle’ of the thing-if everybody has to take one for the team, then that should mean EVERYBODY.


January 27th, 2010
8:52 am

Rep. David Lucas of Macon and Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams of Avondale Estates are more Democrats that still don’t get IT!! Even Obama is compromising and we should all make sure the President of the United States’ office knows exactly what is going on with his state-level fellow Democrats. My daughter has been a dedicated high school teacher in this state for 7 years and absolutely was not given a choice on taking furlough days. I have no doubt that this will be Rep. Lucas and Rep. Williams last term.


January 27th, 2010
9:14 am

Are these representatives actively opposing furloughs for other state employees as a matter of principle, or only protecting their own pockets?

Wounded Warrior

January 27th, 2010
9:18 am

Those lawmakers that were confused as far as furlough days…they obviously don’t understand that they just work 40 days a year, and make more than alot of people full time. To the ones that won’t, how ’bout the boot!!! The straining 36 days to work this year is just to much on their wallets. THEY HAVE A JOB…I haven’t worked in over a year, and would love to work 40 days, and also to have a non taxable expense account that matches their salary. They keep the rest of the money from the expense account. THESE 7 PEOPLE ARE ALL DEMOCRATS. REMEMBER THEM WHEN VOTING COMES AROUND.

Wounded Warrior

January 27th, 2010
9:21 am

my comment got lost

Wounded Warrior

January 27th, 2010
9:23 am

all of these lawmakers are Democrats. The ones that don’t comprehend, well, the 40 days are just so many days to work. The ones that won’t, remember them come November.

Reality Check

January 27th, 2010
9:27 am

Excuse me if this sounds like a racist comment but……how many of these folks are black?

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
9:32 am

Why didn’t they just dock their pay? Duh!


January 27th, 2010
9:34 am

I know Coach Williams and if this is true, I’m disappointed in his behavior and response with respect to the furlough days. He is a recently retired teacher and should have have done so to show solidarity with the other government employees that have made the same sacrifice. I’m not in his district but I will let him know my concern.


January 27th, 2010
9:49 am

It is very unfortunate that furloughs are required, but if it means they get to keep their jobs & benefits as opposed to the alternative, unemployment, then so be it. I applaud Casey Cagle for leading by example. This uncompromising attitude is precisely why the country can’t get the healthcare initiative approved; everyone has the solution but yet we are in dire straits. No one is immune any longer, welcome to the real world; it hurts no matter who you are.

state worker

January 27th, 2010
9:50 am

Coming for a state worker…the lawmakers should be the main ones furlough they make the most money if they cut there pay check it will help the debt that this state is in! I just don’t understand, its okay for Perdue to cut the state employers and teachers salary but when it comes to them getting there money cut its a problem “THIS IS THE BIG ISSUE”


January 27th, 2010
9:53 am

Dear Reality Check: there is no excuse for your ignorance. What if they were purple? What then?

I cannot understand how furlough days can be optional for certain state employees. Dear Legislators: get with the program. I’ve been a teacher for 17 years, and I sign a contract every year too. This article made me furious. This educator will be one of the first to the polls.


January 27th, 2010
10:07 am

I TOO signed a legally-binding, I guess that was only legally binding for ME….I signed a contract to work and get paid for 190 days. If I broke my contract, I’d be terminated. My county and state broke my contract-with no penalties…

They lost $725? I lost $900…and another three furlough days this spring? ANOTHER $900. What this has meant is that I didn’t spend the typical $600 in my classroom this year…I can’t afford it.

The losers? My students…because MY county did not adequately fund my program yet again…

To seriously?

January 27th, 2010
10:10 am

you must be purple.


January 27th, 2010
10:13 am

This is just another sign of the UTTER STUPIDITY of our elected officials. Having already taken 3/4 of my required furlough days–which I also did not “sign up for” when I accepted my job offer–I really resent the attitude of these law makers. Unlike this stellar group of 7, I am truly thankful to have my job and I am willing to make some sacrifices to keep it as long as possible. Apparently these elected officials feel differently about their jobs. It appears to me that they have no respect for the State of Georgia or their constituents! Remember these 7 names come election day.

Joy in Teaching

January 27th, 2010
10:31 am

I certainly hope that the voters in these people’s districts immediately begin petitioning for a recall of these “fine” politicians. They need to be given the boot.

General Sherman

January 27th, 2010
10:45 am

PRINCIPLES..When did politicians acquire this trait??

General Sherman

January 27th, 2010
11:14 am

Reality Check..They are all african american!


January 27th, 2010
11:15 am

Well, I am sure there are at least two who will be unelected. I would bet the others just thought they woould get away with it, but, at least they did the right thing. The teachers contract was first broken in the 70’s when the state took away our pay raise a week before school started. The governor and assembly that did that was all democrat. This travesty to teachers is not just a republican thing.


January 27th, 2010
11:16 am

Dear DOE,
As a teacher, I refuse to take a furlough day on a matter of principle. Please do not take any money out of my check.
Thank you,


January 27th, 2010
11:26 am

Just another example why Our Legislative Perks need to be changed so that a Legislator has to depend on Social Security and medical coverage JUST LIKE every other American and not be treated as an ELITE. It’s total BS. It is repeated accross our Great Land in all the States. A person gets elected THEN he’s got it made the rest of his life, even if it’s only one term, he still gets the full benefits described above. IT AIN’ RIGHT! IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED.

Mike Hunt

January 27th, 2010
11:34 am

All Dem’s too…this is what happens when people don’t vote or when people (in these districts) who do vote are clueless about the politics/politicians…mainly lib-tards

john konop

January 27th, 2010
11:35 am

This issue is very troublesome to me. I have run businesses during some very tough times ie post 9/11 and now. And both times I required my executive staff as well as myself to take a 20% pay cut instead of laying off workers. Knock on wood I have been able to stir the ship in tough waters.

Leadership in tough times comes from the tone set at the top. If the leadership will not sacrifice first than you will see dysfunctional behavior in your company and or organization that will affect a positive cohesive work environment.

I think we could solve many problems with the budget if we asked the leadership to first sacrifice at the DOE, Education……

One example the DOE spends around 300k in overhead to spend about 50k a year after servicing debt.

In the tough times we must be realistic how and when we spend money. And I would hope executives in government making over 6 figures would take a 20% hit on pay before asking others to take a pay cut.


January 27th, 2010
11:55 am

I just hope their inbox exploded today with angry e-mails. I’m eating lunch right now, but you can bet that I’ll be sending one this afternoon once my students leave. I may not be a constituent of these particular representatives, but I’m a taxpayer and a teacher, and if they’re asking me to sacrifice, they better be d*** sure I’m expecting them to do the same.

General Sherman

January 27th, 2010
12:32 pm

Call me a racist if you like,but please answer one question honestly.Why does the City of Atlanta,Dekalb and Clayton counties have the most corrupt elected officials? That just happened to be majority african american.


January 27th, 2010
12:46 pm

And once again the race card is played. I don’t think race has anything to do with it Gen Sherman. They’re politicians. Name one politician-white, black, yellow, purple, striped-that at one point did not do something slightly corrupt. You probably can’t.

On another note, this is appaling. To be able to outright refuse to take the furlough days when so many teachers HAVE to take them is ridiculous. I hope the residents of these counties show how angry they are come election time.

Joy in Teaching

January 27th, 2010
1:13 pm

I’m now more furious than ever:

Ernest “Coach” Williams is a a retired teacher and member of THREE academic associations: Georgia Association of Educators,President; DeKalb Alumni Association, Albany State University, and Organization of DeKalb Educators, Executive Board.

How on earth can someone who has been in education ask that teachers, among others, take furloughs yet *refuse* to take one himself? OMG, but the exact nano second I leave campus today, I am going to call his office up and b***h like there is no tomorrow. I just programed his office number into my cell phone.

The other representative, David Lucas, has been in office since 1975. I hope the good people of Bibb county (teachers, state patrol, fire fighters, health department workers, etc) who were forced to take furloughs despite their contracts storm his offices with pitchforks in their hands. I’m thinking that their voting him out might be the least of his problems after his little speech at this point.

Those in the legislature with the mentality of these two fine gentlemen need to just get the h**l out of the way and allow those with actual leadership ability to take their place.

what's right for kids???

January 27th, 2010
1:15 pm

This article made me throw up in my mouth. HOW DARE THEY???????

what's right for kids???

January 27th, 2010
1:34 pm

Who wants to bet that these may be the same miscreants who have back taxes?

General Sherman

January 27th, 2010
1:41 pm

Pen..Touche on the crooked politicians,but you still did prove my theory wrong about the number of african american politicians in the city and counties.A very disturbing number,since all seven were a/m! This is not racial,just a fact.

General Sherman

January 27th, 2010
1:43 pm


Sophie's Choice

January 27th, 2010
1:47 pm

Reality Check– yes, your question is racist. The race of the legislators in question is irrelevant, and you & “General Sherman” know that. Was it relevant that Glenn Richardson is white, or should we assume that only middle-aged white Republican males are philandering liars?


January 27th, 2010
2:32 pm

Every time someone mentions white or black, there always seems to be someone who brings up the race card. I saw the pictures of the legislators on tv last nite, all seven were African-American, I think?? Why is this? Do they need the money more than the other legislators? I’m sure the African-American teachers, troopers and all other employees of the state are just as upset with these people as white citizens are. They all along with the tax cheats deserve to be kicked out of office. Anybody who would vote for these people must have their head in the sand and has no respect for their fellow Georgia citizen. Two of my children are public school teachers and they are dutifully doing their part with this sacrifice they must make. I really don’t know how they can sleep at nite when they refuse to make the same sacrifice that other Georgians are.


January 27th, 2010
2:34 pm

I am not surprised by the action of “Coach”. I wonder why he thinks that he can refuse to join in the pain of his constituents all across of 89th who have taken furlough days and scrambling to find a way to make ends meet. . I am working to get newlyannounced candidate Kenneth Samuel elected to replace this heartless representative. The question is “Who does he represent besides himself.

Lets fight back!!

January 27th, 2010
2:36 pm

As a resident of Georgia, I am appalled and embarrassed by the actions of these legislators. Earnest (Coach) Williams represents house district 89 and is being challenged by Kenneth L. Samuel on July 20th. Go to to find out more information on his candidacy. Help elect him to office through your contributions if you are just as disgusted by Coach Williams behavior as I am! I will find out the information on Lucas and post it as well. I do not believe he is being opposed at this moment.

Jacky Jack

January 27th, 2010
2:48 pm

Help me with my math please. Legislators make $17,342 a year. Legislators work 40 days a year. $17,342 divided by 40 eqauls 433.55 per day worked. $433.55 x 11 furlough days equals $4,769.05. Where do you get the figure $725 as loss of pay for each legislator?

Jacky Jack

January 27th, 2010
3:00 pm

Is this how they figured the amount for each furlough day? 52 weeks in a year x 5 work days per week equals 260. $17,342 divided by 260 equals $66.70 per day. $66.70 times 11 furlough days equals $733.70. Is this how they figured it? Instead of dividing by actual days worked (40) they divided by actual “normal” working days in a year (260)? Did they divide teachers salary by 190 (actual days worked per year-contract). Or did they divide teacher salary by 260? As it appears? that is the way they figured the legistor loss of pay. If I’m a teacher, I would prefer the legislative format. I’m confused.


January 27th, 2010
3:01 pm

$725 / 11 = $65
17,342 / 65 = 266
52 weeks X 5 days = 260 days
My guess is they are saying they work all year even if they are in session only 40 days per year.

Simply Amazing

January 27th, 2010
3:05 pm

I live in the 89th district and I am extremely disturbed by Coach Williams actions. I’ve always thought that he was a nice guy, but his behavior is simply unacceptable. Although I don’t know much about Kenneth Samuel, I’m going to visit his website right now! Thanks “Lets fight back” for providing the information. I’m pretty sure he will have my vote!!


January 27th, 2010
3:24 pm

Wrote my e-mails. Let’s see if I get a real response back, or just platitudes about how they have always been on the teachers’ side, and they’re not taking the furloughs to show the governor that furloughs are bad.

Big t

January 27th, 2010
4:53 pm



January 27th, 2010
5:01 pm

First, I do not believe that the other legislators were “confused”. If they were, it is not too late to rectify that. As for the two who oppose because they were not consulted, who was consulted? Want to let them know how you feel? Email, contribute to the opponent’s campaign, volunteer to get the message out. These legislators count on voters to “forget” all about this at election time. I won’t forget and I don’t live in either area. I will be out there campaigning against them because they may not represent me now, but who knows where they will be in the future?


January 27th, 2010
5:32 pm

And people wonder why our government is such a mess! I hope all the police officers, firefighters and teachers remember these “elected” officials who are better than we are.


January 27th, 2010
5:56 pm

If they were “confused”, they are too stupid to be legislators. If they did it on purpose, they are too greedy and self-serving to be legislators. At any rate, give them the boot. And I want my pay reduction figured the way theirs appears to be!

Also, I want to work 40 days and get a year’s credit toward retirement. As it is now, if I work 260 days I still get only one year’s crdit toward retirement. Or next year give me my full salary for working only 8 weeks.


January 27th, 2010
6:09 pm

Please vote these people out of office!!

Ole Guy

January 27th, 2010
6:36 pm

Mr George, Chief of Staff to Minority Leader Brown, states that the perception was that the deductions were “automatic”…the inference being that, had it been known that an active, conscious effort, on the part of the individual legislator, was all that stood between good leadership and horrible leadership was a misunderstanding…oh, excuse moi, I believe the operative word is “confusion”. I think I can find it deep within my recesses to respect (with reservation) a leader who says, in effect, “hell yea, that’s the way it’s gonna be, because of principles”…as opposed to the pure 100% bs answer, “I thought it was automatic”. Being neither a teacher, nor a civil employee, I am not familiar with the processes with which they must contend, however, I am prone to believe that the deductions in their paychecks are, indeed, automatic…unless the process is different for lawmakers.


January 27th, 2010
7:21 pm

Big t….. TERM LIMITS, TERM LIMITS, TERM LIMITS are getting us a fully funded fish pond and horse park in Houston County — right where Governor Perdue will be living once he leaves office in January while we have to deal with these furloughs…. no cuts there. I wonder why… oh yeah, who does he have to answer to? He can’t run for reelection this year.


January 27th, 2010
7:58 pm

I could believe that the two representatives were truly acting on principle if they’d expressed their principles way back last year when the governor started furloughing state employees, and if they’d argued against those furloughs FOR EVERYONE PAID BY THE STATE back then.

Really, the General Assembly’s main job is to create and pass a balanced budget. It was obvious 2 weeks into the fiscal year that they had royally failed in this process during the 2009 session. Did they go back and fix their mess? NO!

(I suggested to my legislators that they should do so, and they said it would cost too much for all of them to go back to Atlanta. My thoughts were that, since they had failed in their job and since they thought other state employees should work for nothing, they should do the job they should have done earlier without charging the taxpayers.)

To find out 6 months later that these “lawmakers” have principles only makes them appear self-serving. And the ones who were “confused” are apparently too stupid to make laws for the rest of us.