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Mandatory furloughs set to take effect

February 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
On Friday, thousands of state workers will be forced to take time off without pay to save the state money.A budget compromise may have stopped the furloughs from going into effect. However, as much as state workers tried to stop the furloughs, they will go on. Reality has sunk in, and now many are worried because taking two days a month off unpaid essentially amounts to a 10 percent pay cut.

"I'm going to have to cut cable, probably get rid of my home phone and just use my cell phone. You know, these are some things you initially do," Roland Becht, who works for the DMV in San Diego.

But, there is some confusion as to which of the 238,000 state employees the furlough order applies to. At SEIU Local 1000, the largest state worker union, members sorted through dozens of department memos and the governor's exception list and they can't make sense of it.

"I think it's extremely disruptive. You're going to have mass chaos everywhere, not only for workers, but for the public," said Yvonne Walker, SEIU Local 1000 President.

Californians will see most state offices, like the DMV, closed. However, unemployment centers got a last minute reprieve and will remain open.

It isn't clear whether the furloughs apply to state leaders, so-called constitutional officers, who are elected independent of the governor and control their own budgets. The judge who ruled last week that the furloughs could legally proceed said on Thursday that those state leaders were not part of the lawsuit.

"The court ruled today that the Department of Justice and other constitutional offices like the controller, the treasurer, the Lt. Governor, that these employees are not subject to the furloughs," said Jerry Brown, California Attorney General.

"They're still part of the executive order. So every first and third Friday of every month, constitutional officers and their employees will be subject to the furloughs," said Aaron McLear, Governor's Press Secretary.

Some state workers who know for sure the furlough order applies to them, insist they still have a responsibility to serve.

"I'm still coming in, and we're pretty behind right now. We were behind before the furlough started. This is going to push us even further behind," said Stanley Jacobs, a CalTrans engineer, who understand he will not be paid for his hours this Friday.

For those who do have to come in, they have to take their two furlough days during other days of the week each month.

Governor Schwarzenegger hopes to save $1.5 million by June 2010.

Eyewitness News Reporters Nannette Miranda and John Gregory contributed to this report.


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