Unpaid Furloughs Forced on State Employees

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office told labor unions Friday that it will order two-day-a-month unpaid furloughs for some state employees.

Schwarzenegger Discusses State Budget (MP3)

The unpaid furloughs, which will begin in February, are an attempt to save cash during the budget crisis.

Executive director of the Professional Engineers in California Government Bruce Blanning told the Sacramento Bee that he learned of the executive order Friday morning during a call from Department of Personnel Administration officials.

Blanning told the newspaper that the furloughs would apply to all general fund and special fund employees.

"We're in a time when we're trying to get federal money to build infrastructure and create jobs," Blanning told the Bee. "Telling people to stay home two days a month does not seem to be a productive way to do that."

sacbee.com: "Schwarzenegger to order furloughs, layoffs"

Back to the Drawing Board

Schwarzenegger said that he would call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a third special session in two months to try to close the state's growing budget deficit.

"As we free fall into a fiscal Armageddon, the Legislature still can't cross the special interests and do what's right for the state of California," Schwarzenegger said at a press conference in Fresno. "The only thing they did really well was to increase taxes."

Schwarzenegger wants lawmakers to return to the Capitol and work until they reach a compromise on the state's mammoth $42 billion shortfall.

Lawmakers adjourned for the holidays Thursday after Democrats pushed through a package of spending cuts and tax increases using a creative maneuver to bypass Republican support.

The governor's office had sought what he said was assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure, broad authority to relax environmental regulation on public work projects and more toll roads.

Additionally, he requested deeper cuts than Democrats were willing to offer, such as reductions in welfare and senior assistance programs, greater flexibility to reduce school spending, and the elimination of two of 14 state employee holidays.

Democratic leaders and environmental advocates questioned why the governor would toss aside the only deficit-cutting legislation to reach his desk since he declared a fiscal emergency on Nov. 5.

Paul Mason, deputy director of the Sierra Club in California, suggested that by demanding environmental exemptions, the governor was betraying his public image as a crusader against global warming.
"It's inconsistent with the media image he likes to present with how green he is," Mason said. "They really should be focused on how we deal with the fiscal crisis in California. Weakening environmental protections is not the answer."

Democrats sent the Republican governor a package of bills Thursday that would make more than $7 billion in cuts to education, health care and prisons, and increased taxes and fees by $9.3 billion. It proposed about $1.5 billion in other budget changes.

Their plan would raise the levies Californians pay on gasoline by about 13 cents, replacing an 18-cent-a-gallon excise tax and a fluctuating sales tax with a 39-cent-per-gallon fee.

It also would raise the state sales tax by 3/4 of a percent, boost personal income taxes by 2.5 percent, tax oil produced in California and collect taxes from independent contractors upfront.

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