- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has sent out buyout applications to more than 2,000 state employees.

Letters detailing the offers were sent out last week but weren’t expected to reach the affected workers until Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday.

State agencies each determined which of their personnel would be eligible for the buyout, but they must be full-time employees who have been on the state payroll for at least five years.

The buyout package includes four months’ worth of base salary and $500 for each year of service. Workers selected for the buyout will also be eligible for six months of subsidized health insurance and up to $15,600 in tuition assistance at public colleges and universities. The tuition benefit expires in June 2018.

Unused sick leave will not be reimbursed as part of the buyout plan.

The deadline to apply is July 17, and the final decision on whether to offer the buyout will rest with the state. The state has not said how many positions it seeks to eliminate through the buyout program. If not enough workers seek the buyout, the state could turn to involuntary layoffs.

“While the state will offer severance benefits required by state law for any employee who terminates as part of a layoff, those benefits will likely be less generous,” according to the state Department of Human Services’ website on the buyout program.

The state plans to inform those selected for the buyouts by July 24, and their last day in state government would be July 31. Anyone who accepts the buyout would be barred from state employment for two years.

Haslam has sought more flexibility in the rules of employment for state workers since coming into office in 2011. But lawmakers pushed back at the governor’s most recent proposal to do away with longevity bonuses for all state employees. They instead decided to only apply the change for new hires.

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