ANNAPOLIS -- How bad have state employees had it? So bad that even the calendar has conspired against them.
First they were denied a pay raise. Then, because of ever-increasing budget deficits, they were stripped of automatic incremental raises and required to pay more for their health insurance. To top it off, the governor ordered those employees who were working 35 1/2 hours a week to work 40 hours a week with no increase in pay.
Now they have to cope with -- of all things -- leap year.
When Maryland employees opened their paychecks Wednesday, they discovered their take-home pay had actually gone down -- by about $1.05 for every $10,000 earned. The biweekly paycheck for an employee earning $30,000 a year, for instance, was light by $3.15.
The reason, said a spokesman for state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, was that actual pay is computed by dividing the number of days in the fiscal year into the employees' annual salary. Because 1992 contains a Feb. 29, the computation involved 366 days instead of 365.
The result is less money per paycheck, but the same salary per year, said Marvin Bond, Mr. Goldstein's spokesman. This seeming inconsistency can occur because the last of 26 pay periods overlaps into the next fiscal year.
"Every four years there is a slight adjustment. It is always made in the same way. This is no departure, no difference in how this was done," Mr. Bond said.
Despite a memo from Mr. Goldstein to state agencies explaining the pay adjustment, some employees are complaining, said William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
"Perhaps the issue is now arising in face of the 40-hour workweek," he said. "Employees are so upset about that, anything else is just adding fuel to the fire. Maybe that is why we didn't hear about it before, but we are hearing about it now."
He said AFSCME lawyers were looking into it, but held out little hope.