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Furloughs back for thousands of state workers

August 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Furlough Fridays are back on for thousands of state employees. They were on hold, but the California Supreme Court lifted a restraining order that prevented Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from imposing them. The furloughs will affect nearly 150,000 state workers, but they are expected to save the state about $150 million a month.

Schwarzenegger says the state is running out of money, and he needs to cut costs until the legislature passes a new budget.

"As soon as we have a budget, we're not going to do the furloughs. The furloughs go away as soon as the legislature does their job and passes a budget," said Aaron McLear, the governor's spokesman.

State workers had already coped with a round of furloughs that ended in June. The governor ordered an additional three furlough days a month, but a restraining order prevented him from imposing the unpaid days off.

But then the California Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that furloughs can resume while it considers the case.

"The longer it takes for us to resolve this budget, the more severe the solutions are going to have to be," said Assemblyman John Perez.

The furloughs will have a big impact on those who need to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles on Friday. The DMV will be closed today and next Friday. People who scheduled appointments will need to reschedule.

All across California, people were either driving up or walking up to DMV offices, only to find them closed.

The state Supreme Court ruled just Wednesday that Furlough Fridays can continue, which didn't give the state much time to get the word out.

"I'm not really happy," said DMV customer Jim White. "I'm trying to get ahold of my handicap plates."

Most people took the day off to take care of business.

"I brought two books. I was ready. I was prepared to wait," said DMV customer Christine King. "Now I have to go home, be like, OK, I still don't have my driver's license, still don't have a vehicle registration."

"My driver's license expires in two weeks, and I will be out of town until then," said DMV customer Eugene Reshetov. "So today was my only chance to do it before it actually expires."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered another round of furloughs because a state budget still hasn't been approved.

It's now day 51 into the new fiscal year.

As frustrating as furloughs are for Californians, the rollercoaster of on-again, off-again unpaid days is worse for state workers, like DMV employee Nickia Cordoba.

The single mother of five, including an infant, is seeing her bills pile up.

Like most state workers, Cordoba got her first full paycheck last month because the furloughs were supposed to end in June. Then the budget impasse happened, so the $32,000-per-year technician will receive $450 less this month.

"Now I have four kids starting school this year, and I can't afford to buy clothes for them because now the money I thought I was going to have is now being taken away," said Cordoba.

The governor's office says the new furloughs affecting about 144,000 workers will save the state about $137 million a month. The furloughs are supposed to stop once a state budget is approved.

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