To close a $350 million gap in the state budget, Gov. Don Carcieri is telling state employees to stay home.

Carcieri issued an executive order Friday mandating furloughs on four Fridays for all nonessential employees. Employees wouldn't be paid for the days off on March 30, April 6, May 25 and June 8.

The governor estimates the move will save the state $6 million. State police, prison guards and some health care providers would still report to work, he said.

"This decision to impose furlough days was not made lightly, but it is necessary for us to live within our means," Carcieri said in a statement.

The union that represents about a third of the state's 15,000 employees said the order violates a contract provision and plans to fight it.

"It hurts the lowest paid employees, that's who it hurts the worst," said Dennis Grilli, the council's executive director.