State employees who serve in critical public safety or mental health care positions will not be required to participate in unpaid furloughs that have been scheduled for six days in the fiscal year that began July 1, officials announced Thursday.
Those who won't be furloughed under the exemptions include :
■ Employees who provide direct patient care at state run mental health facilities.
■ Corrections officers and medical personnel at state prisons.
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■ Kentucky State Police officers and communications personnel.
Cabinet officials could not say Thursday night how many workers would be exempted.
When Gov. Steve Beshear presented his furlough plan to the state Personnel Board in July, he said it would save about $24 million. As part of the two-year budget passed in May, Beshear must cut $131 million in addition to 3.5 percent spending cuts to most state agencies this year.
On Thursday, Kentucky Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson approved limited requests for exemptions to the state employee furlough plans for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
"Our desire to achieve savings and meet our obligations to provide key services and protect the citizens of Kentucky is now, and will remain, paramount throughout the review of each furlough plan, said Jackson.
In July, Jackson outlined a plan to include three common days during which state offices will be closed. The days are next to existing state holiday weekends: Friday, Sept. 3; Friday, Nov.12; and Friday, May 27, 2011. In addition, employees will be furloughed for one day in each of the months of October, March and April.
Six state workers and their labor union AFSCME, which represents about 9,000 state workers, filed a lawsuit in August over the furloughs.
They said they do critically important work for the public and their agencies already are understaffed. They said the plan could put people's lives at risk.
"It's a step in the right direction," AFSCME spokesman David Warrick said Thursday about the exemptions. But Warrick said Cabinet for Health and Family Services social service workers who protect vulnerable citizens and are required to meet federal deadlines should also be exempted from the furloughs.