Delaware's new governor, Jack Markell, was faced with an historically large projected budget deficit when he took office in January. He had to make some tough calls, including a proposed 8 percent pay cut for state workers and several other less public, but tough, belt-tighteners.
When you add in teachers, state workers are one of the largest voting blocks in the state. and they were not, as a group, very happy with the projected pay cut. I was not pleased, but working close to the budget as I do I also realized that some cuts were required.
The state workers' anger made the legislators nervous. They cut the pay cut back to 2.5 percent and they insisted on giving us something back for the pay we gave up. They came up with the idea of 5 extra days off.
These are not "furlough days," since we're getting paid for them. And they are not really vacation days, because they can't be banked and carried over to the next fiscal year. So what to call them?
As a good bureaucracy, we ended up calling them "Section 25 Days" because they are established in Section 25 of the budget bill.
None of us could take these days until very recently, though, because the legislation is complex. No one can take Section 25 time, for example, if it would cause someone else to have to be paid for overtime. Agencies had to work out how their workers would use the time and have those plans approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
Section 25 days are very special, complicated and much-discussed around the proverbial water cooler.
I am working now to add "Section 25" to state worker slang as a term for breaks taken for no apparent reason.
"Where's Johnny? He's supposed to be ramble-framping the sturggelblix."It might catch on.
"Oh, he's taking a nap in the parking lot. He's on a Section 25."