Gov. issues order to cut pay for CA workers

December 19, 2008 11:52:15 PM PST
The other shoe has now dropped in the state's budget crisis. Late Friday afternoon, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (D) of California, issued an executive order that lays out a plan to cut pay and furlough workers because California is running out of money. There is new pressure on lawmakers to get something done quickly.

Reminiscent of protests over a budget that would have cut their pay during last summer's fiscal crisis; state employees are gearing up for another battle. Union leaders got a call from the Schwarzenegger Administration warning them furloughs were coming through an executive order.

"Meaning, two days a month, employees would stay home and not get paid. It equates to about a 10 percent pay cut," said Bruce Blanning, from the Professional Engineers in California Government.

Even worse, Blanning doesn't like the layoffs that would cut as much as 10 percent of the state workforce. The Governor's moves are meant to slash expenses, but the unions are preparing lawsuits challenge his authority to do so.

"He'll wind up in court, certainly. A number of folks would have a problem with what he's issued," said Blanning.

Democratic leaders as well are concerned about the Governor's use of executive power, but agree the state workforce needs to be reduced.

"Nobody is taking the state workers off the table here. All we have said is that the parties ought to be able to work it out," said State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D).

News of worker cuts comes on the same day fresh unemployment numbers for the state show a still spiraling economy. The jobless rate jumped to 8.4 percent. A year ago, it was 5.7 percent -- nearly a three point increase.

The numbers do not reflect the thousands of public works employees who are losing their jobs because the state stopped funding projects this week to conserve cash. Throw in the impending furloughs and layoffs in state government, there's real fear the state is heading towards double digit unemployment.

"As we continue to see layoffs, we certainly will see increases in unemployment, as well as probably for unemployment insurance," said Loree Levy, from the California Employment Development Department.

Governor Schwarzenegger says he did not want to compound state workers' worries about the economy, but he felt he had an obligation to Californians to make whatever sacrifices necessary to maintain government programs and services.


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