State shutdowns will delay services

January 12, 2009 7:40:00 PM PST
In Sacramento, there is growing resistance to a key component of Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to trim spending. Three top Democrats now say they will not abide by his executive order to force state workers to take two unpaid days off each month.

The lines are already too long at some DMV offices throughout California. Last year, field offices processed more than 29 million in-person transactions. Closing them two Fridays a month starting next month would likely make waits longer.

"There's other things people have to take care of in life. Standing in DMV lines or waiting at the DMV just isn't it," said Donyea Elmore, a DMV customer.

Customers have already seen Saturday hours eliminated at the DMV because of the budget crisis. Californians would also feel the two-day shutdowns when they call into the unemployment benefits helpline, and local nail salons will be subjected to fewer inspections when inspector work days are cut. It's Day 68 of the budget stalemate, and furloughs would save the state more than $1 billion. The cash is expected to run out soon.

"We can't afford to pay our bills in a few weeks. The Governor has a responsibility to lead us through this crisis, to make difficult decisions. He doesn't want to furlough state workers twice a month," said Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

From the groundskeepers to top executives, the net effect to state workers is a 10-percent pay cut. Bill Silva has already asked his mortgage company for help.

"Now what do I do? I'm under a couple of hundred dollars every month. And there's not much they can do because I'm not in trouble yet," said Bill Silva, a CalTrans geologist.

Legislative leaders met again with the governor. It's a good sign their meeting lasted a few hours. For the first time, there's consensus to attack the colossal deficit at once, rather than piece-meal.

"We're trying to solve the $41 billion problem at one time here. We're all in agreement that that kind of approach makes sense," said State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D).

The public employees unions have a hearing on January 29th challenging the legality of the furloughs. So only the courts or a budget agreement could stop state government from shutting down every 1st and 3rd Friday.


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