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Gov. orders furloughs for state workers

December 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger say he'll call lawmakers back into special session for a third time to try and deal with the budget crisis. The governor has also ordered layoffs and furloughs of two days a month in the state work force. Reminiscent of protests over a budget that would have cut their pay during last summer's fiscal crisis, state employees are gearing up for another battle. Union leaders got a call from the Schwarzenegger administration warning them furloughs were coming through an executive order.

Are you a California state worker who will be affected by the governor's decision? We'd like to hear from you!

"Meaning two days a month, employees would stay home and not get paid," said Bruce Blanning from Professional Engineers in California Government. "It equates to about a 10 percent pay cut."

Even worse, Blanning doesn't like the layoffs that would cut as much as 10 percent of the state workforce. The governor's moves are meant to slash expenses, but the unions are preparing lawsuits challenge his authority to do so.

"He'll wind up in court, certainly," said Blanning. "A number of folks would have a problem with what he's issued."

Democratic leaders are also concerned about the governor's use of executive power, but agree the state workforce needs to be reduced.

"Nobody is taking the state workers off the table here," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Senate President. "All we have said is that the parties ought to be able to work it out."

News of worker cuts comes on the same day fresh unemployment numbers for the state show a still-spiraling economy. The jobless rate jumped to 8.4 percent. A year ago, it was 5.7 percent, which is nearly a three point increase.

The numbers do not reflect the thousands of public works employees who are losing their jobs because the state stopped funding projects this week to conserve cash. Throw in the impending furloughs and layoffs in state government, and there's real fear the state is heading towards double digit unemployment.

"As we continue to see layoffs, we certainly will see increases in unemployment, as well as probably for unemployment insurance," said Loree Levy from the California Employment Development Department.

In addition to ordering state employees to take two days off a month without pay, the governor also issued an executive order that requires state agencies to reduce payroll by 10 percent, which could lead to a potentially massive layoff.

The state will run out of cash in February unless Schwarzenegger and lawmakers can reach a deal on either cuts, revenue increases or a combination of both. California is projecting a $41.8 billion budget shortfall through June 2010.

Schwarzenegger on Friday also issued an executive order calling lawmakers back into session to deal with the budget for the third time in two months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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