Long-time state employees who choose to retire early could receive a $25,000 bonus under legislation being considered at the statehouse. The incentive package approved by the Senate State Government Committee on Tuesday would provide those who choose to retire early with five years of health insurance as well as a payment to cover all their unused vacation.

Those who’ve been on the job more than ten years would get a $1,000 bonus for every year of service, up to 25 years. Senator Staci Appel, a Democrat from Ackworth, is chair of the committee which has given its approval to the early retirement plan. “We’ve got 2,261 employees that are eligible to go and this helps them make a decision to move on,” she says.

A consultant hired by the governor estimates the incentive package would save the state 60 million dollars a year. Democrats on the committee supported the package, while all the Republicans on the panel voted against it. Senator Jerry Behn, a Republican from Boone, suggests the savings are overstated.

“If you allow, for example, a prison guard (to retire), alright, you have to replace a prison guard. You can’t do without him,” Behn says. “So if you allow them to retire early and they just replace that position, you don’t get a fraction of the savings that are projected here.” Critics of early retirement plans of the past pointed to the number of state workers who retired, but then were rehired to do the same work. Senator Appel says the new plan forbids that.

“And it states right in the bill that you cannot be rehired by the state and you can’t come back as a consultant or as a contractor,” she says. “We’re very strict in this bill.” The consulting firm the governor hired predicts about half of the state employees who would be eligible for the early retirement incentives would take the offer.