California Furloughs

Governor to furlough California state workers first and third Friday of each month

Governor to furlough California state workers first and third Friday of each month

From The Press-Enterprise, January 9

SACRAMENTO, CA – Most California state offices will close on the first and third Fridays of each month starting in February as the state copes with a projected $40 billion deficit over the next 18 months, state officials said Friday.

The closures are part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to force state employees to take unpaid furloughs, or days off, twice a month. Schwarzenegger says the furloughs will save the state about $1.3 billion through June 2010.

State employees unions have challenged the governor’s order in court. On Friday, a Sacramento County judge set a Jan. 29 hearing on the plan’s legality.

Also Friday, the governor’s office released the final details of Schwarzenegger’s 2009-10 budget proposal outlined last week.

The plan includes borrowing for several Inland projects but lacks requested startup money for UC Riverside’s planned medical school.

The closure plan excepts prisons, hospitals, parks and some other agencies, mostly those that generate money for the state, Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said.

Employees at those agencies will be furloughed on a rotating schedule.

Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, whose Riverside County district includes several state offices and parks, said the proposed bimonthly closures are a result of lawmakers’ inability to address the state’s fiscal woes.

“I don’t think that’s an overwhelming inconvenience,” Nestande said. “It’s more of a canary in a coal mine of what’s coming.”

State parks officials still are trying to figure out which days to furlough workers at places such as Lake Perris State Recreation Area, a popular spot for weekend visitors.

“That’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday park, maybe into Monday,” said state parks spokesman Roy Stearns. “We’ll follow (the furlough plan) but try to do it smartly to keep the parks open and minimize the effects on the public and employees.”

State workers

San Bernardino County has the third-most state employees in the state, 11,949, with 10,670 of them full-time.

Riverside County has 8,115 state employees, 7,475 of them full-time.

The Inland region’s dominant state employer is the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

As of 2008-09, several prisons in the region employed more than 6,600 workers.

Three state employee unions have filed separate lawsuits, arguing that the governor exceeded his authority and violated the collective bargaining process when he announced the furloughs in December.

They say furloughs can be implemented only with consent of the unions or the Legislature.

The unions say Schwarzenegger’s order amounts to a nearly 10 percent pay cut for the 235,000 affected state workers.

The order does not affect employees of the Legislature, judiciary or university systems, which are outside the governor’s control.

Schwarzenegger’s lawyers are seeking to have the lawsuits challenging his furlough order dismissed on technical grounds.

They say the issue should be decided by the Public Employment Relations Board, whose five members are appointed by the governor.

David Gilb, the director of the Department of Personnel Administration, announced the closure schedule Friday in a memo to agency secretaries and directors.

Governor’s spokesman Aaron McLear said, “We worked with the agency secretaries to determine the best days to do that. Typically state government is less active on the whole on Fridays.

“Secondly, by shutting down entire buildings, we will realize savings by not having facilities open,” McLear said. “Lastly, we understand how difficult this is for state workers. Hopefully having a three-day weekend will help soften the blow.”

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said Friday evening that his office will not participate in the governor’s furlough program.

In a letter to Gilb, Lockyer said, “We believe that the governor has not established that he has the legal authority to impose furloughs and the related salary cuts on state employees.”

Local Spending

Friday’s budget plan includes millions in proposed construction spending at local community colleges, Cal State San Bernardino and UCR.

Riverside City College would get $58 million in bond money, the most of any community college, to build and equip a new nursing and science building.

The governor’s proposal didn’t include $10 million UCR is seeking for a planned medical school.

The request was part UC Board of Regents budget package sent to the governor in November.

UCR Chancellor Timothy White said he’s confident it will be part of any final budget agreement, he said.

UCR plans to use the money to pursue curriculum accreditation, develop clinical affiliations at hospitals and clinics, and hire staff.

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