California Supreme Court Backs Governor’s Worker Furlough Plan
On Monday, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) furlough program that affected 200,000 state employees in 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
Some health care workers affected by the furloughs included:
- Pharmacists; and
- Psychologists (California Healthline, 1/30/09).
The ruling said the furloughs were legal only because the state Legislature indirectly accepted them when lawmakers approved changes to a 2009 budget measure. The revision reduced state employee pay by the same amount the governor proposed to cut through the furlough program (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
By ruling that the Legislature authorized the furloughs, the Supreme Court rejected Schwarzenegger's attempt to make his executive power more broad, saying he did not have the power to legalize furloughs on his own.
Recent Furloughs in Question
The justices' ruling does not address the furloughs Schwarzenegger imposed this year because the Legislature would have to address the proposed savings in this year's budget plan, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The ruling will make furlough programs more difficult for future governors to enact, according to the Bee (Siders, Sacramento Bee, 10/5).
Those furloughs, which mandate three unpaid days off each month, affect 144,000 state workers (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
The court also ruled that state employees are not owed any back pay (Sacramento Bee, 10/5).
Schwarzenegger said the furloughs reduced state spending by $3.2 billion since February of last year, but labor unions said the savingsÂ are misleading. Â
Unions said the furloughs, which cut state workers' pay by about 15%, hurt state services and closed agencies that usually generate revenue (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
Both Schwarzenegger and labor unions reacted positively to the court's ruling on the furloughs.
In a statement, the governor said the ruling "upholds the state's actions to protect taxpayers and ensure we live within our means."
Anne Giese, an attorney who argued the case for the unions, said she was encouraged that the court did not expand the governor's powers.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) criticized the court's ruling. Steinberg said it was not the Legislature's intent to ratify the legality of the furlough program when they approved spending cuts for the 2009 budget (Dolan/Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times, 10/5).
Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of the furlough ruling are provided below.
- "California Supreme Court Rules Last Year's Furloughs Were Legal" (Lieszkovszky, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 10/4).
- "Calif. Supreme Court Upholds State Worker Furloughs With Limits" (Small, "KPCC News," KPCC, 10/4).