Judge Temporarily Blocks Gov.’s Furloughs for State Employees
On Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick temporarily halted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) recent furlough order, ruling that "serious questions" exist about the legality of unpaid time off for state workers, the Sacramento Bee reports.
BrickÂ said that allowing the furloughs to continue before a scheduled Sept. 13 court hearing could cause major harm (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 8/10).
A spokesperson for Schwarzenegger said the governor plans to appeal the ruling as early as Tuesday (Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times, 8/9). If the appeal does not overturn the ruling, the judge's decision would cancel four furlough days between now and Sept. 13.
Background on Furloughs
On July 28, Schwarzenegger reinstated the furlough program to reduce state spending and combat California's $19 billion budget deficit. The furloughs were expected to affect about 144,000 state workers.
The furlough order would not have applied to employees who either work for an exempted agency or belong to one of six state worker unions that have reached a labor deal with the Schwarzenegger administration (Sacramento Bee, 8/10). The Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which represents 1,800 state employees, is one of the labor groups exempt from the order (California Healthline, 7/29).
Legal Status of Previous Furloughs
Last year, Schwarzenegger ordered state workers to take furlough days between February 2009 and June 2010 to address a major budget deficit.
Next month, the California Supreme Court is slated to consider challenges to the previous furlough order (Los Angeles Times, 8/9).
Observers Question Democrats' Budget Assumptions
Meanwhile, observers are questioning Democratic legislators' proposed budget plan, which claims to generate an additional $1.8 billion in state tax revenue while reducing total tax payments for most Californians.
Critics contend that the plan depends on temporary increases in income taxes and vehicle license fees, which are scheduled to expire next year. They add that potential savings for Californians will depend on whether residents itemize their tax deductions (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/9).
In addition, observers note the Democrats' budget plan assumes that 15 state employee bargaining groups will agree to the same labor agreements six other unions have reached with the Schwarzenegger administration (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/9).
Editorial, Opinion Pieces
- Contra Costa Times: Although the Democrats' proposal to reduce the state sales tax is promising, "this is hardly the time to cut a major source of revenue," a Contra Costa Times editorial states, adding, "But no one seems to be in a rush to achieve a balanced budget, even though the state is more than five weeks past the official deadline" (Contra Costa Times, 8/10).
- Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles Times: There are people in Sacramento "who want to continue tumbling down the same destructive path of more borrowing and higher taxes," Schwarzenegger writes. He adds, "Government must stop being a roadblock and instead begin helping employers and entrepreneurs expand and create jobs" (Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles Times, 8/10).
- Sheila James Kuehl, Los Angeles Times: Schwarzenegger's "support for tax cuts at the same time he refused to support anything that would raise significant revenues has devastated education and the social services safety net," Kuehl -- former state Senator and founding director of the Public Policy Institute at Santa Monica College -- writes. She adds,Â "There is no room for amateurism in government, and this governor is an amateur" (Kuehl, Los Angeles Times, 8/9).
On Monday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the judge's ruling halting the state worker furloughs. The segment includes comments from Felix De La Torre, an attorney for Service Employees International Union Local 1000 (Lieszkovszky, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 8/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.