Governor's Staff Defends Return of Furloughs

Union Official Decries Move

Thursday, Jul 29, 2010  |  Updated 10:30 AM PDT
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Governor's Staff Defends Return of Furloughs

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The Schwarzenegger administration on Thursday defended a decision to bring back furloughs for thousands of state workers, citing the lack of a state budget nearly a month into the new fiscal year.

But an official with a union whose members face furloughs is calling on leaders to seek a budget solution that does not hurt state workers.

Aaron McLear, representative of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, noted that furloughs will not affect members of several unions that have already made concessions. He said some agencies that generate revenue will also not be impacted.

"With a $20 billion deficit and the worst economy since the Great Depression, there are no good solutions," McLear said. "You know, I think everyone in the private sector understands that. Everybody in the private sector has been cutting back. Every family and business out there has been cutting back. And, unfortunately, state workers have to be part of that. But as soon as we get a budget, the furloughs go away."

A previous round of furloughs ended last month.

Chris Voight, executive director of the California Association of Professional Scientists, said Schwarzenegger likely called for more furloughs to gain leverage against unions and legislators.

"We're not too surprised, but we are disappointed," said Voight, speaking on behalf of a group that represents about 3,000 state scientists.

Schwarzenegger on Wednesday proclaimed a state of emergency over the state's financial situation, issuing an executive order forcing thousands of state workers to take three furlough days a month.

About 150,000 employees will be affected by the order, resulting in projected savings of about $150 million per month for the state.

That came on top of the governor's previous order that state workers be paid federal minimum wage until a budget is passed. The governor and State Controller John Chiang are locked in a bitter legal battle over the minimum-wage order, which hasn't yet been instituted.

Furloughs are set to resume in August, with furlough days on the second, third and fourth Fridays of each month until lawmakers pass a budget.

McLear said Schwarzenegger sought the furloughs after Chiang announced plans to start issuing IOUs in August in the absence of a budget.

The governor is exempting from furloughs about 37,000 employees from six unions that have reached tentative deals with the state on pension reform and other issues. Service Employees International Union Local 1000, the state's largest union, has yet to reach such a deal with the administration.

Also exempt are the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and agencies that generate revenue for the state, such as the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization.

This article originally appeared on KCRA.com.

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